Notebook: Freshman set to start

Jarrad Davis was already starting to earn more playing time on the Florida defense. The loss of Antonio Morrison only expedited it. Michael Taylor will slide over to middle linebacker while Davis will earn his first career start at weak side linebacker on Saturday at South Carolina.

"Watching the games, Jarrad shows up a bunch, whether it's on special teams or even the limited snaps he's had on defense," Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. "He shows up. He's about all the right things, he practices and works really hard, prepares himself well. He's going to get more opportunities, and we're going to keep playing him more and more as we go."

Davis started to turn heads in fall practice, just weeks after enrolling and starting his career in Gainesville. The coaches trusted him enough to put him on multiple special teams units at the beginning of the season, and it didn't take long for Davis to start making his presence felt in games.

The freshman linebacker has made multiple big hits and started getting more time on defense in the game against Missouri. Despite only limited snaps on defense, he's currently 19th on the team in tackles. And he'll start on Saturday because he first made an impact on special teams.

"That's usually how it goes, especially with young guys," Durkin said. "They get out there on special teams. When they're making plays and they start playing at game speed and they're showing up, usually it's ‘hey, let's try him here, let's give him this little package, give him a role on offense or defense.' Like anything else, when you do well with the role you get, your role increases."

The Gators signed four linebackers in the 2013 recruiting class. Alex Anzalone, Daniel McMillian and Matt Rolin took most of the headlines in the class while the Gators flipped Davis from Auburn late in the process. Davis has made the biggest impact despite being the lesser known of the four.

"We thought he was a really good player bringing him in," Durkin said of Jarrad Davis. "We're pleasantly surprised. He is a guy who is very mature. He just handles himself in a way that, if you didn't know, you wouldn't think he's a freshman. That's in the meeting rooms, off the field, on the field. He prepares really hard, practices well. We're very pleased with where he's at obviously. He's going to continue to play more and more.

"I think that's a guy that is someone we build around here."

SLOWING DAVIS: The Gators will face the Southeastern Conference's leading rusher in Columbia on Saturday, and it's a familiar face. Gamecocks running back Mike Davis has run for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns so far this year. Once committed to Florida in high school, the Florida staff knows a lot about him.

"He's a really complete back," Durkin said. "He's a powerful guy, breaks tackles. He's got some top-end speed. He's hit some long ones on teams where maybe because of his size or whatever he doesn't look like a speed guy, but he's got speed. He can break it.

"He finishes runs, he's physical and he's a competitive guy. So yeah, he's got a lot of yards after contact."

GAMECOCKS OFFENSE: The South Carolina offense ranks ninth in scoring offense, sixth in rushing offense and sixth in passing offense. The numbers aren't eye-popping, but Durkin is impressed with what the Gamecocks have done with the ball this year.

"They're probably the most complete offense we've played all year in terms of all the different ways they can move the ball effectively," Durkin said. "They've got a really good running back. Their quarterback can run it and throw it. They have good receivers outside.

"Up front, they're really big. They do a good job in both run blocking and pass protection. They're the complete package and it will be a great challenge for our defense on Saturday."


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