Florida, so far, has been able to overcome a rash of injuries on defense with the help of the 2019 recruiting class.
Five true freshmen have stepped in and stepped up for the Gators — cornerbacks Kaiir Elam, Chester Kimbrough and Jaydon Hill and ends Khris Bogle and Mohamoud Diabate.
“They’ve done a good job,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said after Wednesday’s practice. “When you look at the corners, they’ve all really progressively gotten better. I’ve been pleased with their progress. When you look up front, Khris and Mohamoud have both done a good job, being able to get some quality reps and give us some production.
“The theory is injury creates depth, meaning that sometimes you play guys more than you would because you’re forced to. When other guys come back all of a sudden you’ve got a little more depth. We’ll continue to take that philosophy and play with the guys we’ve got.”
Most of the freshman focus has been on the three corners, but Bogle and Diabate have been doing their job, and doing it at some crucial times. Both were on the field in the fourth quarter of the comeback win at Kentucky. Both saw significant playing time in the win over Tennessee last Saturday.
“They’re young players that are playing relative to the situation we’re in,” Grantham said. “They’ve embraced the situation and made plays. And they’ve been productive. We’ll continue to use them as needed. They’ve got bright futures here.”
A full Moon
Freshmen aren’t the only players starting to emerge this season. At least one veteran player also is — junior rush end/outside linebacker Jeremiah Moon.
“Yeah, he’s a really explosive, twitchy guy who’s done a great job in the offseason, his preparation as far as the weight room, with the nutritionist to make sure he’s gaining weight and becoming stout,” Grantham said. “I think the guy is unbelievable. I love the guy. He busts his tail and does everything you ask him to do. He’s always ready to work and he shows up on the field.”
Moon had four tackles, a sack and broke up a pass in the win over the Vols.
QBs make the grade
Kyle Trask may have grabbed the headlines with his passing performance in the win over Tennessee, but he isn’t the only UF quarterback who played well. Emory Jones also turned in a winning performance, according to Mullen.
“He did a really good job,” Mullen said. “The one thing I told him, ‘Just make sure you’re with me, so I’m ready to get you in there quicker.’
“I talked to both guys before the game, I said, ‘Here’s what I need. You’ve both got to make sure you’re completely involved in the game and every call that’s going on and everything that’s happening. And when you run on the field or run off the field, that’s just your job and pay attention to what the next play’s going to be and be able to talk about different things.’
“I thought both guys handled that really well. Both guys graded out champions for us. And so, that was a real big positive for us.”
UF’s dormant running game seems to gain a spark when Jones was in the game in the second half. His ability to make plays with his legs seemed to loosen things up.
“I think one thing, the threat of him with the ball in his hand is a little bit different threat,” Mullen said. “Not that he would run more than Kyle, but I think he’s a pretty dynamic runner in that way.”
Status quo for Cox
Social media has been alive with speculation that five-star Georgia transfer defensive end/linebacker Brenton Cox has received his special waiver from the NCAA and is now eligible to play. But it just hasn’t happened yet.
“We’re waiting to hear back from the NCAA,” Mullen said.
A different approach
Due to all the injuries, especially on defense, the Gators changed their practice routine his week, Mullen said.
“We tweaked some things up this week,” Mullen said. “We’ve dealt with so many injuries. We’re trying to get guys back, get guys healthy on the field. We tweaked our practice schedule.”
Slot receiver Kadarius Toney (shoulder) will miss his second consecutive game Saturday. Cornerback CJ Henderson (ankle), defensive end Jabari Zuniga (ankle) and linebacker Ventrell Miller (hamstring) will be game-time decisions. Henderson has missed the past two games, while Zuniga was held out of last Saturday’s game after getting injured in the Kentucky game two weeks ago.
Middle linebacker David Reese has emerged as a team leader in his senior season, Mullen said.
“He’s a senior captain for us,” he said. “He’s taken on the responsibility of leadership. It’s huge. He’s been in the program, he’s paid his dues. He’s always tried to do things the right way.
“That’s what you want in your leaders, guys that show up every day and work as hard as they can to the best of their ability. Set the bar for others to follow. He’s done a great job. He’s bought into everything we’ve tried to do as a program.”