After the loss to Kentucky, when Florida coach Dan Mullen started stressing that the Gators needed to be tougher, more physical and aggressive, he could have pointed to junior defensive tackle Adam Shuler as an example of what he’s looking for.
“Toughness,” Mullen said of the West Virginia transfer. “He’s got a toughness to him. He’s got an edge, a nastiness to him. And that stuff is contagious.
“That’s what I want. We get everybody on that deal, we have some solid potential here. We just got to go start taking advantage of it quickly.”
Shuler’s tough, nasty approach is what elevated him to a starter the last two games, and he’s produced. After making three tackles against Colorado State, he turned in a dominant performance in the win at Tennessee, recording nine tackles, including a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry.
“It’s just coming from the hard work, the drive to be a dog on the field,” Shuler said. “Work hard throughout the week and it’s going to show up in the game.
“I just know it’s crunch time on the line of scrimmage. Games are won up front. If you can’t bully the man across your front then it’s going to get real ugly. Just got to take care of it.”
Shuler’s angry approach is what the other defensive linemen need to emulate, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.
“I feel like we needed that in our front, and he kind of brought that,” Grantham said. “You’ve got to have guys who have a little edge, that’s when you’re good on defense, when you have a little edge to it.”
Senior defensive end Cece Jefferson said Shuler is nasty, and that’s a good thing to be if you’re a defensive tackle.
“Oh, yeah, he’s filthy. He’s a dog,” Jefferson said. “That’s very infectious. All it takes is one guy to go harder every play, then the next guy will see it. That will be two guys and the next guys sees it and it will be three. And on it goes.
“Shuler does a good job of being nasty every day, knocking people back and running to the ball. It just trickles down and becomes a domino effect. I’m happy to have him here.
“He’s so fast and strong and his football IQ is amazing. He just loves the game. You have some who like the game and some who love the game. He’s one of those who loves the game.”
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A most memorable play
Sophomore cornerback CJ Henderson continues to draw praise for his touchdown-saving tackle against Tennessee that turned into a touchback when he jarred the ball loose and it rolled through the back of the end zone.
Henderson chased down UT tight end Austin Pope from all the way across the field to make the play.
“That’s what we strive for,” Grantham said. “We always talk about giving relentless effort, and he saved seven points there. When you see that from one of your better players on your team, I think that helps get to other guys to see this is how I need to do it.
“It kind of creates a standard in which you need to play. Obviously, I was proud of the way he played. He helped us save points and helped us win the game.”
Junior linebacker David Reese wasn’t surprised by Henderson’s play. He’s seen the same kind of effort from Henderson in practice.
“It was like watching film. He always gives that kind of effort,” Reese said. “That’s the type of effort they want in this program and what they preach about. It’s showing on the field right there.”
Living in Starkvegas
Moving to almost rural Starkville back in 2009 turned out not to be a big adjustment for Dan Mullen because he was working all the time trying to establish his program. But it was a significant adjustment for his wife, Megan.
“For me, I go to work,” Mullen said. “I get up and I go to work and I go home. For my wife, probably a lot of online shopping. We get a lot of catalogs to the house. You’d go home and always check the front doorstep, there’s usually a package on there. There wasn’t a Target or a lot of stores close to Starkville. There are some local stores and all that stuff, but I think that was an adjustment for my wife.”