Florida’s Polite on pace for double-digit sacks, NFL paycheck

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Florida defensive linemen Jachai Polite and Adam Shuler II (95) celebrate after a sack by Polite against LSU at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday. [Brad McClenny/ The Gainesville Sun]

It all began to click for Jachai Polite in 2017, and former UF defensive tackle Taven Bryan seemingly deserves much of the credit.

Bryan, who was selected in the first round of the NFL draft this year by the Jacksonville Jaguars, wowed professional scouts with his athleticism for his size, specifically his ability to bend under the guard’s edge and get to the quarterback.

If Bryan, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing just north of 290 pounds, could create that combination of speed and power, Polite knew he could, too.

“Last year, my sophomore year. I saw Taven Bryan do it, so I wanted to be like that,” Polite said. “I used to always watch him do, like, ankle flexibility things. So I just stole his trick, I guess.”

His accelerated development as a pass-rusher — Polite is adamant he didn’t start weightlifting seriously until midway through his high school career — is even more apparent this season under coach Dan Mullen and defensive line coach Sal Sunseri.

Through six games in 2018, Polite has forced four fumbles, with much credit going to his persistence when it comes to getting into the backfield and sniffing out the quarterback. And Polite’s pair of sacks in Florida’s 27-19 win over LSU brought his sack total to six, putting him on pace to become the first UF player to record double-digit sacks since Derrick Harvey recorded 11 sacks in 2006.

Polite added six tackles and a pass break-up against the Tigers, and his combination of speed and size continue to amaze even those who witness him in action on a daily basis.

“Jachai’s speed off the ball is probably the best in the country. He’s probably hands down the best pass-rusher in the country, and I love playing with him. Just seeing that guy transform — that was my roommate coming in here, and seeing how much weight he shed, how hard he worked, and he’s always been that athletic type of guy,” junior linebacker David Reese said. “And he can stop the run also, so it’s not like he’s just a pass-rusher. He’s an all-around guy.”

If he continues playing at his current rate, Polite will only draw more acclaim — in addition to a consistent double teams from Florida’s opposition — and an NFL paycheck similar to Bryan’s should follow.

When asked about Polite’s talent level, Mullen, who abstained from watching much film from Jim McElwain’s tenure prior to either Spring or Fall camp, could think of just one other defensive end over the past two decades he has witnessed who possessed a similar all-around skill-set: Dwight Freeney.

Freeney, a seven-time Pro Bowler who played 16 seasons in the NFL before retiring in April, honed his craft as a freshman in 1998 at Syracuse — the same year Mullen served as a graduate assistant for the Orange.

“He was a freshman. Back in the old days though, too, right, you had the three-a-days, like, the freshmen came early. Coaches, they’d like to whine that it’s not enough guys, so I had to block,” Mullen remembered. “I think Polite, he’s got that type of explosion.”

 

17 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve griped too much about past coaches. In truth all of our defensive coaches for ten years have been top notch. So we have had good scouting and good coaching and good defensive calling.
    Most years it was something different. Either credit card or offensive line unable to handle the blitz or a hurricane or the Grier steroid thing.. some of it was going to happen. Maybe Mullen can hold this thing together when the old crazy ivan tries to change the course on us. I for one think he will. But in the meantime we have a special athletic talent with Mr polite so if any gator defensive assistant does not care about recruiting stars that goes double for me.

    • Shannon was a terrible DC thats why we stunk last year on defense which is a rarity. Otherwise I agree with you. we also have a special talent in Vosean Joseph, another NFL talent still playing on saturdays.

  2. I recall an OL recruit from the state of Florida that signed with Tennessee saying after NSD that the best defensive lineman in Florida was not a 4 or 5 star recruit, but a 3-star recruit that not many people were recruiting. He said he played against him in high school and that the recruit was the best defensive lineman he ever played against while in high school by far. The recruit he was talking about in that SEC Country/Tennessee article was a kid named Jochai Polite.

      • Tampa one of the reasons the taking systems has huge flaws. That aside Polite is a beast imagine if he’d had real coaches for the first two years. But Mr Polite keep the motor runnin and be ‘polite’ when you’re running over QB’s head up away from his chest on target, politely knock the ball from his hands as you politely take him to the ground. You could politely offer a hand to help his bruised and battered self on his feet. Politely say I’ll be back and trot to our side of the line of scrimmage. Good luck young man I’ve been watching your play improve. Stay on the right side of things and good luck. GO GATORS!

  3. tampa

    I remember that…..
    they played on the same team at mainland…..when tatum was asked about byran cowart, tatum said polite was way better…..the scout said I don’t know about that and tatum replied wait and see…..then tatum went on to describe what sets polite apart…..and the first thing he said was his motor…..

  4. Speaking of highly rated recruits, one of our fellow posters last week asked about the “disappearance” of Antonious Clayton. I haven’t seen any update on that. Has the search party located him yet? What’s the story?

    • Pat Dooley said in his podcast last week that he was simply way down the depth chart. I personally wouldn’t be surprised to see him transfer after the season. I hope he stays and works harder in the weight room and on the practice field.

  5. Maybe the light will come on for Clayton, he has talent, I hope he reaches his potential. As for Polite, I love that guy because of his relentless effort! Feel sorry for Dan that he had to block Deight Freeney!

  6. Yeah whatever became of Ol’ Byron Cowart? I remember us Gator fans were ready to jump off of the bridge when this longtime Gator fan picked Auburn. Now dude is nowhere to be found. I’d rather get guys like Jachai all day everyday over guys like Cowart. Polite is on his way to being a 1st round pick while BC is wishing he would’ve picked UF instead of following Muschump. Keep grinding Gators!!

  7. I’d say Polite, then Zuniga, then CeCe. I think the early season suspension hut CeCe but he’s still going to play on Sundays. Jabari has the body to add at least 15-20 more lbs of muscle. JZ could play himself into the 1st round with a great combine and UF pro day.