Of the 15 true freshmen who played in last Saturday’s win over UT-Martin, eight were on defense, and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham likes what he saw from the young guys.
“I was impressed with those guys,” Grantham said. “I thought our corners did a nice job. Kaiir (Elam) had the interception. Jaydon (Hill) had a break-up on a third down. I thought those guys did a nice job. (Khris) Bogle, he works hard in practice and it kind of translated to the game, so I was pleased with that.
“Overall, I thought it was good work and a solid performance for them. As we move through the season, we’re going to need those guys.”
The other true freshmen who played on defense were outside linebacker Mohamoud Diabate, linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper, cornerback Chester Kimbrough, linebacker Jesiah Pierre and outside linebacker Lloyd Summerall III.
The freshmen started getting into the game in the first half and played most of the second.
“That was by design. Honestly, we chose that after the first series,” Grantham said. “I don’t think our starters played together the rest of the game, because we felt we needed to implement some guys that are going to play down the road with those guys.
“So we were kind of mixing and matching and playing a lot of different combinations of guys. At the end, I think 31 guys ended up playing for us on defense, which is good.”
Valuable experience gained
The plan to play the three freshman cornerbacks in Saturday’s game turned out to be an important move because all three likely will be seeing playing time at Kentucky with starting corner CJ Henderson likely out with a sprained ankle he sustained in the first half of the win over UT-Martin.
“Oh it’s awesome, I mean you can’t replicate that,” safeties coach Ron English said. “To get them in and then they make a play, and then they have some success, and then they buy in more to what you’re asking them to do out here, right, and then they all of a sudden start getting better and then you can count on them.
“The way Coach Mullen runs his program, which I really like, is we try to develop everyone to the point where at some point in the year, we’re going to be able to count on them. That’s what we do here, and I think that’s why his teams have consistently gotten better as the year has progressed.”
The three freshman corners all produced in their first significant playing time. Elam intercepted a pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter, Hill had four tackles and a pass break-up on a third down and Kimbrough had four tackles.
This D can fly
UT-Martin coach Jason Simpson paid the Florida defense quite a compliment after Saturday’s game, saying the Gators are probably the fastest SEC defense the Skyhawks have played against.
UF defensive tackle Adam Shuler was asked if the speed is what Grantham stresses or does it have to do with how athletic the Gators are up front on the line.
“It’s something that he pushes and it’s also who we have,” Shuler said. “We’re not the heaviest front in America, but we like to say we’re the most athletic, we’re the fastest. So, it’s a little bit of both. He pushes and that’s what we are.”