The way sophomore cornerback CJ Henderson hustles and makes plays, a strong argument could be made that he’s become the new face of Florida football under Dan Mullen.
“He works hard, he competes,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “When you talk about Gator Standard, he has what we want from that perspective.”
Grantham doesn’t hesitate when asked what kind of season Henderson is having.
“He’s having a great year,” Grantham said. “He’s the best corner I’ve ever coached. He’s competitive. He plays hard and he does his job. He works and I’m certainly glad he’s on our team and looking forward to continue to develop him.”
Grantham said Henderson has a chance to be one of the best cornerbacks to play at Florida, and there have been many good ones.
“No doubt,” he said. “The guy’s great. He makes plays on the ball. He had the interception in the fourth quarter at the end. Does his job and works, so yeah he’s up there with one of the best guys I’ve ever coached.”
Not only did Henderson come up with the big interception to help seal the win over South Carolina, he made a play that exemplifies his hustle, tracking down speedy USC wide receiver Deebo Samuel to make a touchdown-saving tackle in the third quarter.
“He did it at Tennessee (also) if you remember,” Grantham said. “The guy plays hard. The thing about CJ is he gives relentless effort all the time. He’s a really good player. He’s a guy that takes a lot of pride in his work, and he practices like that. That’s why he made that play and gave us a chance to bring him down.”
Redshirt freshman linebacker James Houston has really been coming on in the second half of the season and his playing time on defense has increased.
“He continues to work. He is physical, he has talent,” Grantham said. “He’s a player so we continue to develop him to do the things like we want him to do them. He has progressed, and when he does the things we ask him to do, he flashes and makes plays. We’ve just got to continue to develop that consistency.”
Houston has played in all 10 games and has forced two fumbles and blocked a kick. He said he will continue to progress.
“I’ve shown a lot of progress from spring up until now,” Houston said. “I think I made a tremendous jump. I still think I can go even farther.”
Playing from behind
Mullen offers no obvious explanation for why the Gators have been such slow starters in the past four games, falling behind early in each game.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Not playing well, I guess. Getting adjusted to the speed, translating practice to games. You practice stuff. It’s not like people are doing a lot of things we haven’t practiced. It’s coming out. They’re doing stuff we practiced, which is maybe getting accustomed to the speed of the game, getting from a practice to a game, even though we do a lot against each other. That would be my one thought.”