FORT LAUDERDALE — The Florida players created a little confusion for their coaches when they took the field for Friday’s practice. They had exchanged jerseys with each other in the locker room and were wearing different numbers.
“You’re used to seeing this guy wearing that number, and all of a sudden I see (defensive tackle) T.J. Slaton playing nickel,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Saturday. “I was like, who is that, because you get used to numbers in spots and things like that, and it’s no longer there.
“I adjusted. I think it was harder on the people maybe watching practice than it was for us. But it threw me off. I mean, I saw (linebacker) Mohamoud (Diabate) out there, and I’m like the dude is stretching his jersey out all of a sudden.”
Grantham said the jersey exchange was a good bonding moment for the players and showed the kind of chemistry this 10-2 team has developed over the course of the season.
“That kind of jacks me up,” Grantham said. “They were ready to practice, and they played with energy, and hey, it’s about having fun. But you’ve got to perform, and they did a good job with it.
“I think they’re very united and I think they have a really good bond. I think they like playing together. I think that comes from the leadership that we have up top, and it kind of trickles down to guys playing with energy and effort and doing the things they need to do to be good.”
Wilson decision coming
Redshirt sophomore cornerback Marco Wilson has received his draft grade from the NFL and will decide sometime after Monday’s game whether to declare for the draft, he said.
“I’m not going to do anything right now,” he said. “I’m trying to focus on preparing for this game. Of course, definitely (I have a decision to make). I’ll talk to my family and the coaches after I get through this game.
“I’ve talked to Coach Mullen (about my draft grade). We haven’t spoken much about it. Just really focusing on the Orange Bowl right now.”
Fellow starting cornerback CJ Henderson, a junior, declared for the draft several weeks ago and is no longer with the team.
Happy ending for Perine
Even though it’s been a struggle on the ground for running back Lamical Perine this season, he said he’s glad he returned for his senior season.
“No regrets,” he said. “I felt like I was able to show my abilities more than last year.”
Perine did have an opportunity to display his versatility. He rushed for only 538 yards, but caught 35 passes and provided strong pass protection for quarterback Kyle Trask in an almost all-pass offense.
“I feel for Lamical Perine,” offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator John Hevesy. “But throwing the ball was the best way for us to win this season.”
Grantham a Hokie
The Orange Bowl is going to be a rivalry game for Grantham, who played college ball at Virginia Tech under Bill Dooley.
Grantham watched his old arch-rival, Virginia, beat his Hokies at the end of the regular season to reach the ACC title game and eventually earn a berth in the Orange Bowl
“I knew that game was going on between Virginia and Virginia Tech and there was a chance that we could play either one,” he said. “So, obviously being a former Hokie and from Virginia Tech, I understood the importance of that game when it was going down. And then when it came up that we were playing Virginia, it was something I was excited about because being from that area, they’re a rival. So I look forward to playing them on Monday.”