Andrew Chatfield now understands the benefit of enrolling early in college.
A former four-star prospect out of Fort Lauderdale’s American Heritage, Chatfield committed to the Gators in 2018 on National Signing Day, and it would be several months before he would arrive in Gainesville for the commencement of his UF career.
By then, his teammates had a head start on learning the playbook, and there simply wouldn’t be enough preparation time for the weak-side defensive end to make meaningful contributions as a true freshman.
“The hardest part was first just learning the playbook coming in, like how fast things was and you have to be right on every single technique, and what type of moves you’re supposed to do against the offensive line,” Chatfield said. “That was the hardest part for me.”
With only a matter of months to learn Florida’s playbook, Chatfield spent much of the Fall honing his craft, and he would redshirt after playing in just two games in 2018.
But through his first Spring camp at Florida, Chatfield has been one of several standout performers, and he seems poised for a significant role in Dan Mullen’s second season at the helm.
It wasn’t just learning the playbook that led him here — Chatfield had to also closely study those leading the way.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Chatfield said he spent much of last season observing the preparation of former UF defensive linemen CeCe Jefferson and Jachai Polite, two players expected to be selected in the upcoming NFL draft.
“They really helped me figure out how I’m supposed to run certain plays and how I’m supposed to do certain moves and some things,” Chatfield said of Polite and Jefferson. “They were actually a big help, just watching them and learning from them how the game is supposed to go.”
Filling the shoes of Florida’s standout defensive ends would take some physical improvement from Chatfield, however.
In his first offseason training program, Chatfield added nearly 20 pounds of muscle to his frame, helping him turn into a terror throughout Florida’s two scrimmages to date.
“I think I had two (sacks in the first scrimmage), but they didn’t count the first one. It’s fine, I’ll take the one,” Chatfield said with a smile. “Really what I’m working on is trying to be great at rushing the passer and just learning the playbook better than anybody on the field.”
One might think the departure of Sal Sunseri and arrival of David Turner as the unit’s position coach could alter or hinder one’s development, but Chatfield said that’s been anything but the case when it comes to his experience.
“He’s a great coach, teaching us to be explosive in the weight room and how we’re supposed to lift weights the right way,” Chatfield said of Turner. “And we’re just getting stronger and faster, really.”
With just a few days until the conclusion of his first spring camp, that’s the message from the redshirt freshman pass-rusher, who is expected to see the field early and often for the Gators: devotion to the mental preparation can make all the difference for a prospect.
“I’ll tell (recruits to) just get in and please learn the playbook as fast as you can,” Chatfield said. “Once you learn the playbook, I think everything clicks.”