Notebook: Florida secondary expects to see more passes Saturday

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Florida defensive back CJ Henderson (5) breaks up a pass intended for Charleston Southern wide receiver Kameron Brown during the first half Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press]

With option-oriented Charleston Southern attempting only 16 passes (and completing just five), the Florida secondary wasn’t really tested in the opener.

But the lack of work Saturday night is not the reason Marco Wilson, CJ Henderson and the other defensive backs were putting themselves through individual drills long after practice ended Monday night.

It’s something they do after every practice.

“Everybody in the country is working. Not everybody is doing extra work, though,” Wilson said. “Separate yourself — being average or being great. I used to do that ever since high school. My dad just filled that in my mind.

“Every day after practice, me and Pat Surtain would work on press releases, all that stuff. Then Friday night, when the game comes, we would see who really worked and who didn’t. I’ve just kept that mentality.”

Wilson said he works on a variety of different things, depending on what happened during practice.

“Just whatever I feel I need to work on,” he said. “It’s just perfecting my craft.”

Unlike last Saturday, Wilson and the secondary will be tested by Kentucky’s experienced wide receivers.

“There are some good guys out there, some older dudes,” he said. “I know they’ll be physical and they’ll be a lot smarter because they’ve been in the (SEC) for a while. They look good. I’m ready for the challenge.”

One play at a time

UF coach Dan Mullen said the two blocked kicks were two of the most important plays in the Gators’ 53-6 win over the Bucs. One reason they were big is the teaching opportunity the it presents about forgetting the play that just happened and move on to the next.

The blocked field goal at the end of the half came after the Gators gave up a 70-yard run.

The blocked PAT in the second half came after the UF defense gave up its only score.

“Those two blocked kicks to me were two of the best plays in the game,” Mullen said. “To come out and play with that effort, that’s what we ask for. I don’t care what the score is, I don’t care what time of the game, our effort should never change.

“It shouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, this is a big play so I’ll go hard on this play.’ If you do that it means you can pick and choose when you go hard. I don’t want that. There is no choice when we go hard. All we do is go hard every snap, every play, every game and whatever we’re doing the effort level should never change.

“It was great to see that when there maybe was some disappointment on the field, you didn’t let that affect the effort on the next play.”

Hard-hitting freshman

Speaking of successful debuts, true freshman running back Dameon Pierce also had one Saturday night.

He came off the bench to lead the Gators in rushing with 75 yards on eight carries, and also had the monster hit on kickoff coverage in the second half.

“DP’s a hard guy,” sophomore defensive tackle T.J. Slaton said. “We call him a grown man because he’s an 18-year-old kid and runs harder than anybody that we’ve ever played against.

“I say he matches (Jordan) Scarlett on the physical level. He’s a hard player who’s always going to give you a look no matter what. He’s always going to run hard. It’s like basically playing against Ezekiel Elliott but without all the flash.”

Another verbal pledge

The first weekend of the 2018 season has already paid dividends for Florida on the recruiting trail.

William Harrod, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound offensive lineman out of National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Maryland, verbally committed to Florida’s 2019 class after taking an official visit to UF on Saturday.

Harrod, who holds offers from the likes of North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida State, was trending in favor of Michigan prior to last week before a late push from UF offensive line coach John Hevesy brought the four-star prospect on board.

Harrod is ranked the No. 31 offensive lineman in the 2019 class by the 247Sports composite ranking.

With Harrod’s commitment, which is non-binding until he signs a letter of intent, the Gators have 14 commits in the 2019 class.

Poll results

Florida returned to the rankings Tuesday, coming in at No. 25 in the Associated Press and coaches’ polls. Florida last appeared in the Top 25 in early October of last season.

Honorary “Ms. Two Bits”

UF national champion and All-American gymnast Bridget Sloan will lead the Gators fans in the cheer Saturday before the UK game.

Sun correspondent Graham Hall contributed to this report.

5 COMMENTS

  1. “It shouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, this is a big play so I’ll go hard on this play.’ If you do that it means you can pick and choose when you go hard. I don’t want that. There is no choice when we go hard. All we do is go hard every snap, every play, every game and whatever we’re doing the effort level should never change.”

    Ahhhhh….. the sounds of an awesome coach who knows what he’s doing… so soothing….

  2. The preseason is over and soon we will learn if coach Mullen is the long term replacement for Spurrier or not. Urban was a great coach but imo aron Hernandez etc ended up leaving us worse off and Mullen may have been wise to avoid the previous athletic director.
    My belief is that we will end up better off the way things turned out for two reasons. First the entire mess had to clear or else it would have had possibly blown up again but with Foley out it’s smooth sailing ahead. Secondly my sense is Mullen has evolved passed Meyer in recent years. Meyer knew the numbers. He knew special teams mattered. But Mullen sees them as a way to change mindset during a game which is one step further. I think there will be more good things soon.