Fifteen practices seems like a lot of time to get work done in the spring. But it’s not in Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s world.
He has a different timetable for breaking it down.
“In reality you only have 30 hours on the field in spring,” he said Tuesday. “We’re in day three, so six of those hours are gone. So, we’ve got just 24 hours left on the field the remainder of spring to try and get the things we need in. And also evaluate guys and see where they can stack up as far as giving us reps.”
Six hours doesn’t seem like much time when it comes to analyzing and evaluating talent and trying to determine where a group might be headed. But it’s apparently been enough for Grantham to form a positive impression on his new defense.
“First of all, I like our energy on the field, I like our willingness to do things correctly and I like our willingness to develop the habitual traits to be a successful defense, to be a successful team,” he said. “I think we’ve got talent. It’s a matter of developing consistency needed to be the kind of team we want to be.
“We’re moving in the right direction. Obviously, day three, we’re not where we need to be. But I certainly like our attitude, I like our effort, I like our energy, I like we’re early to meetings, we’re early to practice. We’ve just go to keep working and grinding.”
Grantham knows from experience how this process works, how it can play out and why. He’s been coaching for the past 31 years and in his 12th year as a defensive coordinator.
He’s been a successful one at three schools (Georgia, Louisville and Mississippi State) and one NFL team (Cleveland).
Grantham was asked Tuesday about the talent he’s got to work with at UF and whether he has enough for this to be a potentially elite defense.
He said it goes way beyond just talent.
“Talent is important, but you have to have the habitual traits needed in your effort and your energy, and in your fundamentals,” he said. “That’s the key to playing good defense, to play as a unit, play as one. It’s putting in the preparation needed to do those things. Talent is only one part of it.
“There’s a lot of other things involved in being a top-10 defense. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few of those teams. The biggest thing is playing as a unit and honestly developing the habitual traits to play every play the way it needs to be played with the standard we want.”
Grantham said the defense is currently in the consistency phase where the Gators are learning concepts and techniques while trying to string together positive plays without mistakes and breakdowns.
The players seem to be buying in, led by some of the veteran players, including senior end Cece Jefferson, junior linebacker David Reese, junior defensive end Jabari Zuniga and junior Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who has made the move from safety to nickel.
Grantham also is tossing out some early praise for UF’s cornerbacks.
“As a whole, I like our effort, I like our energy,” he said. “I have been impressed with our corners and their play. Certainly we want to continue to develop those guys. I think they can bring something to the table.
“Chauncey is a leader, really works hard, conscientious. David Reese is a guy that’s shown up to be a player. Cece is a guy that’s embraced playing outside ’backer for us and what we’re trying to do with him. Zuniga is a guy that can play more than one spot.
“I’m encouraged about where we’re moving.”
But it’s still very early, only six hours in, and there is a lot of work to be done in a short period of time. And this is a defense that needs time — time to develop depth on the defensive line and at linebacker, time to determine who will be getting most of the reps in the fall and those who won’t.
“You might see one play and say, ‘Yeah, that’s pretty good.’ But the next two or three are not. It’s a matter of continuing to work,” Grantham said. “We’re in day three. I like our progress.
“There’s no magic dust to what we need to do. We just need to continue to work and compete and develop the habits you need to play with and the energy and effort we need to play with.”
What: Practice open to fans
When: 11:45 a.m.-2:10 p.m. Saturday
Where: Sanders Practice Fields