Looking at his numbers through two games this season make him look like a typical freshman that is struggling early in his career. Two games, four tackles and one pass breakup.
Taking those stats as the only information would be a mistake. Jefferson has turned heads over his first two games, overpowering offensive tackles and showing quickness off the ball that could turn into a bigger role. Judging by Tuesday’s practice, the coaches couldn’t be happier with what Jefferson has put on tape against East Carolina and New Mexico State.
With Alex McCalister late to practice because of class and Jordan Sherit being held out with a leg injury, Jefferson opened Tuesday’s practice as the first team defensive end and continued to get into the backfield.
“He’s done very well,” McElwain said. “There are some things that are natural for young player like pad level or gap integrity, but CeCe is going to be a very good ball player for the Gators not only now but in the future.”
Jefferson was one of the standout freshmen in fall camp. Veterans on the Florida defense singled him out early in camp as a player that could help the Gators right away. He has come off the bench and backed up Bryan Cox, McCalister and Sherit in the first two games of the season, but the players still believe in his talent from what they’ve seen on film and what he shows in practice.
“He’s definitely progressed a lot,” Florida safety Keanu Neal said. “I watched one play where he blew, I think it was the right tackle, just blew him up. Blew him off the ball and almost got the sack. That showed me how much power and explosiveness he has. He definitely has that and he’s progressing greatly.”
The goal now is carrying this growth into conference play. The offensive tackles Jefferson will face in league play are bigger and faster than the ones he faced during the first two games of the season. He has improved while facing the Florida offensive tackles in practice.
For a defensive line search for more disruption and pass rush, Jefferson’s reps on the field could increase as he continues to show his coaches and teammates what he can do.
“I think it’s just the beginning,” Sherit said of Jefferson. “It’s starting to click for him. The game is starting to slow down a little bit more. He’s starting to understand the game more than just going out there and playing. It’s a big transition from high school to now, but you can see the way he plays starting to slow down for him. He’s starting to get it, gap assignments, pass rush lanes, and man, he’s coming along great."