Ivey, Jefferson want to leave a better legacy at Florida

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Florida defensive lineman Cece Jefferson is interviewed during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference media days at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Tuesday. (AP Photo/John Amis)

ATLANTA — They aren’t supposed to be here.

OK, maybe they could have ended up in Atlanta on Tuesday as members of the Falcons, watching SEC Media Days on TV.

But not here, representing the University of Florida and answering questions about despair and resolve.

Cece Jefferson should be in the NFL. So should Martez Ivey. Based on their five-star, can’t-miss ratings coming out of high school, a fourth year of college seemed about as likely as a rain-free July in Gainesville.

“You definitely have that thought in your head when you come out of high school with the recognition I did,” Jefferson said.

But life sometimes gets in the way.

“Sometimes you have to face reality that it doesn’t happen that way,” said Ivey. “I’ve faced that reality.”

They both did. The starkness of that reality was a blow to the egos of two proud men. They asked the NFL what the league thought about their draft possibilities. The league told them to stay in school.

Suddenly, all five of their stars were worthless.

They had talked to their new coach and Dan Mullen had shared what he knew. He also shared this:

“We’d love to have you back and we want to help you make a sound decision. But this is how this program is going to be in the future.”

Really, they already knew.

Film doesn’t lie and 4-7 is a loud record. Florida’s miserable season in 2017 wasn’t helped by two guys who were supposed to be two of their better players.

They weren’t bad. But they weren’t great.

“Obviously,” Jefferson said, “the fourth year was something I needed.”

Because they kind of knew they’d be back all along.

Ivey knew in the first quarter of the blowout loss to Georgia.

“21-0, I knew that for a fact,” said the senior tackle of the score after one quarter. “I couldn’t go out that way. We gotta flip the script.

“I get a chance to leave a different legacy than what we left last year.

That was definitely a part of it. I couldn’t leave on 4-7.”

Jefferson felt the same way a week later when the Gators were embarrassed by Missouri. Don’t forget, the head coach who recruited them both had been fired in between those gems.

“After that Missouri game, that’s when I kind of realized, ‘Cece you ain’t ready,’ ” Jefferson said. “You need to come back, give this another year. You need to develop more and learn more about football.”

Learn how to be a leader.

“They were looking at me as a leader and I didn’t know what to do myself,” Jefferson said. “I was kind of stuck. I don’t want to feel like that again.”

Same for Ivey.

Two seniors who shouldn’t be at UF now need to really BE at UF. When Mullen told these players about 100-percent commitment, the leadership element was a part of it.

“They both have played a lot of football,” Mullen said. “They’ve been through a lot and a lot of guys on the team look up to them. They need to set the bar, set the standard for the team.”

He didn’t want them to come back and wonder if they should have taken the leap and hoped for the best.

“If you make a decision be all in one way or the other,” Mullen said. “If you want to stay, be all in. One good thing with both of them, I don’t think I have seen one day where they weren’t all in.”

Jefferson, rehabbing his shoulder after surgery in the spring game. Ivey, in the best shape of his life.

Here in Atlanta, talking about the fire that burns within them to make Florida great again.

Last year hurt. They can still feel the pain.

And they can do something about it. If Florida is going to turn it around quickly, Ivey can’t be the player he has been for three years. He has to be better. When he’s healthy, Jefferson should be a perfect fit for coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense.

He has to be.

And both guys — two of the more popular players on the team — have to be more than buddies to their teammates,

Maybe it has already started. Because they saw what happened last year, how the disaster of the offseason turned into a disaster of a season.

“We’ve just been around each other more often,” Jefferson said. “It’s more of a family feel. I’ve told guys, ‘If you need anything, man, let me know. You don’t need to do anything to jeopardize your future.’ ”

The new togetherness came from a day after a workout when the players started talking about the misery of 2017.

“Everybody one day just got fed up,” Jefferson said. “That’s not the way that season was supposed to be.”

It’s a good sign that there seems to be a new resolve with the players we have talked to all summer. It seems to have been translated into summer workouts and behavior.

But it still has to translate to the field on 12 Saturdays.

After all, Martez Ivey and Cece Jefferson were here Tuesday for a reason.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Awesome, awesome AWESOME!!!!!! I am so happy for these players to have real coaches now who are pushing them to the greatness they deserve. Welcome back, and thanks in advance for igniting the FLAME OF GLORY AND RESTORING THE GATOR EMPIRE TO SUPREMACY!!!!!!!1

  2. Those 3 Gators at Media Day may prove to be TOP NFL prospects, or prove to be looking to sign a free agent contract in the CFL. Talk is good, but inexpensive. Be leaders and lead this team. Let the media do the talking.
    I would almost love to see the Gators trash talk like the 80s and 90s Canes’ but that is not what Florida and Dan Mullen are all about. Proof will be at SOS stadium in September.

  3. This goes to the repeated discussion on star power. Star ratings show that by the set of data (film and evaluation in camps etc.) that a player has more potential than another. Still doesn’t mean they are going to be a great player. I think these two are perfect examples of that. Having potential doesn’t mean anything without good teaching (coaching), conditioning, correction. I think these two can be potential great players this combines the stated requirements with the human element of desire to be the best. Coach Mullen is working on getting that out of these guys and all the players. While I agree with the poster that want more 4-5 star recruits I still believe that some of these guys are ranked because of who offered, where they played etc. Meaning there are plenty of 3 star players that would be ranked higher if they had a different situation. Many posters mention players rankings increasing with the offers they receive. this could be that the team offering has uncovered a gem or that the rankings people pumping up the ranking making a recruiting class look better than it is/was. For Jefferson and Ivey they now have the coaching to go with the ranking. If they are truly as talented as the rankings there should be some special things happening on the field this year. They were ‘let down’ by the lack of coaching and conditioning with prior regime.

    • Concur, 65. You know what I think about the whole issue, I’ve certainly said it often enough. Short version, there is not a hell of a lot of separation between a 3*, a 4*, and a 5* recruit. What you can say c confidence, however, is that they are all “elite” players with “elite” potential at 1 of 3 levels yet to be validated. Once the football is snapped, continues to be snapped, and coaching has set in — the actual degree(s) of separation either takes place, or does not.

      Unpopular as it may be, I’m quite happy with this current class, and believe that the 2019 class will end up being even better. The real jump, however, may well be the 2020 class. That’s entirely within realistic expectations, regardless of how well Georgia, FSU, and Miami may do (or not do), God bless their rotten souls.

      • I agree about this years class, about the entire comment. maybe some question these guys draft status or whatever as to why they are here, but they chose to stay and have been strong for the program and will continue to do so.I remember one year in basketball Kentucky had a mess (not the same as ours, but still a mess). the new coach rick pitino emphasized that the players he had wanted to be there, and they became known as the unforgettables for the fight they demonstrated. I look forward to calling these players unforgettable as well, and thank them for coming back.

        • mveal, I seem to remember the unforgettable group and I like the comparison. Somehow I have said this before I think the team is a lot better than many think as does Gator-6. Our last two regimes were good at recruiting and failed in the follow through of coaching, conditioning and player development. As mentioned by others they couldn’t run routes, get separation, failed to pressure QB’s when there was opportunity or failed to create their own opportunity. They were not coached to the ‘next’ level after HS. I am hedging saying we are going to be at least 8 wins but I think we can be better than that. Again if the dumpster fire continues to rage that will change. Mullen is doing it right by appearances and IF the players listen, learn and play to their potential I think we will surprise fans, foes, and sportswriters. Of course I have been wrong many times in my life and I may eat my words.

    • Agree with you about the small difference between 3, 4 and 5* but you should know better than anyone here that ole Kirby and his hoard of 8* is a whole different animal and they have already won the NC on paper so we may just as well concede and play for second place