Having been around coach Dan Mullen and strength and conditioning coordinator Nick Savage for a little more than three months now, Florida sophomore defensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton fully knows what’s expected of him.
Sometimes he has it. Sometimes he doesn’t.
And that’s not good enough.
“He’s a 50/50 guy,” Mullen said Monday. “Fifty percent of the time he looks fantastic, 50 percent of the time he looks terrible. That happens with young players.
“What it shows you is he can do it. We just have to do it every single snap. Those 50 percent where he looks great, he’s not doing anything he couldn’t do every play.”
The 50/50 guy was on full display in the first scrimmage of the spring two weeks ago.
At times, he looked like the most dominant defensive player on the field, making plays and blowing up the offensive front with his strength and athletic ability (he can dunk a basketball at 344 pounds). At other times, the big guy somehow disappeared while apparently taking plays off.
With Slaton, the goal this spring has been to get him to play with relentless effort every play, not just every two or three plays.
Mullen said what Slaton is going through is typical of a young college player trying to mature and adapt to a whole new level of play from high school, where he was usually the biggest, strongest player on the field.
“He’s very, very talented — potentially-wise,” Mullen said. “When he decides to go and do it right and put the effort and the focus and attention to detail and put the strain in, he has the potential to be an excellent player.
“When he doesn’t, he’s just a guy. Average player.”
It’s a process that Slaton is going through. The good news for the Gators — and for him — is the potentially excellent player has slowly started showing up more than the average one. If the progression continues, Slaton could have a significant impact on defense in the fall.
“When you watch him you see a big man like that move around and he has some great intangibles that you just want to bottle and say we need it every play,” defensive line coach Sal Sunseri said. “If we can get that consistency with that quickness, the speed and the athleticism on every play, boom it’s going to be pretty good.
“He has the ability to really be as good as he wants to be. I think he’s figuring that out and now he’s starting to mature and grow up and be consistent with striking.”
A four-star prospect out of Fort Lauderdale American Heritage, Slaton flashed some of his potential last season as a true freshman, playing in all 11 games and recording 11 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss.
Since then, he’s been putting in the work in the weight room and at the training table.
Slaton opened last season weighing 360 pounds. By the end of the year, he had ballooned to 370. “That shortened my reps and playing time,” he said.
Now, he’s at a trimmed down 344, and stronger.
“I got in good with my nutritionist and she gave me kind of a list and all types of foods to eat,” Slaton said. “She told me to include a salad in everything I eat, so that’s pretty much it.
“It’s pretty hard, but it drops fast when you track it. So you keep schedules of it. Then you’ve got to have people, your support system, behind you to keep you on track in case you get off.”
Slaton appears physically on track. Now it’s time to get on the play-with-relentless-effort-every-play track.
“Main responsibility is that I’ve got to set the tone,” he said. “D-linemen, we’ve got to set the tone. We’ve got to hold our gaps, that’s one of our big thing. So if we can hold our gaps, our linebackers can get in (and make plays).”
Slaton said he and the other defensive linemen are taking coaching from the veteran Sunseri, who was in the NFL last season as the linebackers coach for the Oakland Raiders.
“He talks to us all together, because we all pretty much have all the same goals,” Slaton said. “We want to win in The Swamp. We don’t want to repeat the same season we had last year.
“He’s really helpful. Him coming straight from the league really excites us and we enjoy every practice and we try to get the best from him.”
What: Annual Orange & Blue Game
When: 3 p.m.
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Tickets: Free admission
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 850-AM, 98.1-FM, 103.7-FM