Through the first two weeks of practice, Rumph has seen things he likes from his group but knows it’s way too early to come to any conclusions. With Fowler’s pass rush ability gone from the edge, Florida has worked with Jonathan Bullard and Alex McCalister outside and hoping to find some young defensive tackles to step up in the middle.
It could change when the Gators add healthy bodies in the fall, but the hope is for more consistent from the linemen inside.
So far, they’ve all shown flashes of dominance. But it just hasn’t come consistently enough.
"It's just so young,” Chris Rumph said of his defensive line. “It's early. They flash, they fool you. I tell them it's just like a girl I dated in high school. She told me she was going to take me to the prom. I'm getting my haircut, getting my brother's car, washing it, cleaning it, all that stuff. I'm all excited about it then all of a sudden she calls and says, 'I'm going to go with your best friend.' That's how they are. They flash. They tell me they're going to take me to the prom, but we haven't gotten there yet."
There are pieces for this defensive line to be a deep, dominant group. Rumph talked about multiple linemen on Friday, including Caleb Brantley, Taven Bryan, Jonathan Bullard, Khairi Clark, Thomas Holley and Alex McCalister.
“Just being a professional, playing every play, being more of a student of the game and just playing defense,” Rumph said of what Bullard needs to improve at. “He is not seeing the total picture. Some of the things we’re trying to teach those guys is seeing the total picture and know not only your position, but know what the other 10 guys are doing because the most important thing that he had to understand – not only him but the rest of those guys – they need to understand why when we tell them to go into C-gap, or go into B-gap, go into A-gap. If they’re just going, then sometimes they may hop into b-gap when they are supposed a-gap and they are not understanding why they need to be in the a-gap. And that comes from not knowing the entire defense and sort of being selfish. I heard a coach I used to work for before say, ‘he’s looking through a straw; he’s not seeing the big picture.’ So once he understands why, not only him, but the rest of those guys, then they will stop doing some of the things they’re doing and start making sense and start clicking. It will come together and then they can play faster.”
“Oh man, I love him,” Rumph said. “Man, he’s the Energizer Bunny, he’s bouncing all over the place. He keeps me going, he has energy all the time, I love the kid. He plays hard, he practices hard. One of the things, not only him but a bunch of the guys, he asks the right questions. When he asks a question it makes sense, there’s a reason why. You know you just gotta keep a tight rein on him because sometimes he’ll go ‘hoooo’. But he’s a great kid, looking forward to working with him, I think he’s going to do a lot of great things for this university.”
“He brings energy,” Rumph said. “That’s my big Wyoming wild man. He’s a big old caveman and wants to use all his brute strength. But he’s athletic for a big guy. His football IQ is really, really low because he hasn’t played a lot of football. I don’t know how many great players have come out of the state of Wyoming, but he could be up there. If there is one, he could be just as good as those guys once he learns the game. Everything right now is just new for him. I got him on Gerber, baby food. I can’t even feed him table food yet, he would choke. But once he learns, his teeth are starting to come in, maybe we will feed him off the table before long.”
"Caleb has to push himself,” Rumph said. “He's a very, very talented young man. Very, very talented. But right now, mentally, he's playing like a freshman. Sometimes he's relying on his talent and his athletic ability to do things. As a coach, one of the hardest things to do is to coach a guy up after he's done something wrong, but yet he's had success. He's so result oriented that's all he sees. When I tell him, 'Hey look at your footwork here. Look where your eyes and your hands were on this particular play.' He blocks that out and the only thing he's saying right now is 'Coach you're crazy. I just made a sack. I just made a tackle for a loss, that's what you want.' So I have to tell him yeah you get away with that against this guy but what if it's LSU? What if it's Georgia? What if it's that other school? You may not have that success, so when you're going against just as talented as you are it comes down to technique and fundamentals. So trying to get him to buy into it, which he is, he's trying, all those guys are trying to do that, but him in particular because he's so talented."
“You just saw a big guy that could run,” Rumph said of when he was recruiting Holley to Alabama. “He was dunking a basketball and his elbow was at the rim, at that size. He’s almost like Taven Bryan in a sense, big guy, athletic guy that can run. Those are the guys that you take a chance on, guys that are athletic and can run. We all think we’re gurus and great coaches and we can coach him up. Some of the things I saw were that he could run, hold the point, could rush the passer and he was just doing it naturally. I was happy to get here, and hopefully, if I don’t screw it up he’ll be a great player.”
“Khairi, he’s working really well right now,” Rumph said. “He’s getting better every day man, I’m excited for that kid because he’s a kid once he gets it right and you celebrate him getting it right, he’s just so happy to have accomplished something because he’s a kid that you know he wants to make coach happy. He wants to make people happy. He wants to do good, and so when he does that and we celebrate it, I just love looking at his face.”