Gators are taking baby steps to being a better team

Junior defensive end Jordan Sherit is all about the right things. Hearing him talk, he says his teammates are doing the right things to make this team as good as it can be. To a man, according to Sherit, they are taking care of the little things and that is going to pay off in the fall.

According to Sherit’s teammate Quincy Wilson, “it’s been a grind”. But, the work that he and his teammates are putting in, little by little, will add up to big things when the schedule rolls around in September.

"It's gone really well,” Sherit said of spring practice this year. “One thing that we've been stressing is just every day getting something out of practice, getting just a little bit better every day. If we can do that, we can be a better team. Just basing on where we were at last year, this time this team, how close we are and how we've been practicing and adjusting and having another year under our belts with the coaching staff, you can definitely tell a difference with our team."

The 6-foot-4, 251 pound pass rusher finished with four starts, 25 tackles and 1.5 sacks a year ago. He’s likely to start at the RISH position in 2016. He takes a very unselfish approach to any goals for the season.

"I mean, personally I want to play to the best of my ability,” he said. “I'm not a big stat guy. Play within the defense and play within the scheme, it will show up on film. So for me, just play my role whatever that is and help this team win games."

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 Teammate and likely starter at defensive tackle Caleb Brantley has some big shoes to fill in 2016. Gone is Jonathan Bullard who will likely be a top two round pick in this month’s NFL Draft, Sherit expects Brantley to step in and fill the void.

"We face these questions every spring,” he said when asked about Brantley replacing Bullard’s production. “Being at the University of Florida, you're going to have great players on the defensive line. There are always question marks, but I think every one of them we've answered pretty well. I think collectively we gotta fill that void. Not to take anything away from Jon, he was a great player, but Caleb Brantley is a great player in his own right as well. He's already turned a lot of heads and he's going to continue to do that."

One of the new guys on the block is sophomore Keivonnis Davis. Davis was the last of the 2015 recruiting class to show up on campus when he arrived in August a couple of months behind the rest of the 2015 recruiting class. Davis worked hard, started gaining quick size and strength, and near the end of the season they asked the young man to pull his redshirt because of multiple injuries up front.

He has now turned that experience and continued growth into being one of the more talked about younger players on the roster.

"In my opinion if he was here first thing in the summer, he would've been helping us since Day 1,” Sherit said of Davis’ late arrival a year ago. “He's a guy who brings the fire to practice. At the d-line position that's something you want and you can't teach sometimes. He's a guy that definitely helps us and gives us a little edge on the outside."

And of course a big key to what is happening up front on defense is Chris Rumph, the defensive line coach at Florida. It seems Rumph is able to get more out of more people up front than many of his predecessors. Every single scholarship player that wasn’t redshirting as a freshman a year ago played in important snaps up front last season.

His guys love him.

Kan Li / Scout
 "Oh man, coach Rumph, there's not a better coach in the business,” Sherit said. “The way he's bringing along these young guys and developing them, you guys will see for sure in the spring game. Guys like Keivonnis Davis, Jabari Zuniga, even Jordan Smith, Luke Ancrum, guys that are developing really fast. Faster than I'd ever seen since I've been here, and it's exciting to have them and another offseason and another summer with Coach Kent (strength coach), I think our defensive line, I expect no drop off and we’ll have even more guys numbers wise to contribute this year than last year."

Rumph’s ability to get the young guys ready and helping has just made it easier for the whole unit.

"It's a group effort,” he said of an unsaid motto. “That's one thing that coach Rumph definitely stresses is in our room we like to keep everybody up. It's a family environment and it's not putting guys down, it's trying to raise them up and challenge our guys to get more out of them. We have high expectations from everybody, whether you're a one, two, three or four, if you're on the field, (we want) no yards. You're getting sacks or being productive so that's something, we definitely encourage our young guys. Again, they're trying to catch on once they kind of learn the defense they start to play fast and it should be a pretty quick transition for them."

It has also helped this year that the Florida coaching staff has stayed mostly intact from a year ago.

"We were off to a slow start last spring just because everything was kind of new,” Sherit said. “We’ve kind of kept the same terminology and the same kind of defense, but just having the familiarity for another year, all of these guys could've gone anywhere in the country and they stuck around another year. So that speaks volumes about themselves and what they think about this place. So it's definitely a big plus."

All of the work this spring culminates under the lights Friday night in The Swamp in the annual Orange and Blue Debut. According to Sherit, the event should be just another way for them to get better.

"(We expect) the same thing that we expect from ourselves during practice… get something out of it, offense and defense just have a good battle,” he said. “Walk away from the spring game knowing that we had a good spring and everyone got better, everybody developed as we should've."

Give and get with the offensive line…

The difference in depth along the offensive line has been well documented this spring. Last year the team finished with six scholarship linemen at the end of spring. The defensive line has been getting more work and better work this spring having faced this bigger group, but Sherit says not to just short change them just because there are more of them.

"That's a huge difference from last spring to this spring,” he said. “It's been really good and not just that, I mean, the offensive line themselves have definitely developed and gotten better. With both of us seeing each other every day and the drills that we do, that friendly competition is getting us even that much better. And I think we've all benefited from that this spring."

Early enrollees making noise…

Florida came into the spring with nine high school early enrollees, three junior college transfers, and a graduate transfer quarterback, 13 new teammates that have made the spring really competitive. Sherit says the guys came in ready to work.

"I can definitely tell they've come in a little bit more mature,” he said. “They came in ready to work and that kind of shows in how coaches look to recruit guys. They recruit guys that fit into this program. The quarterbacks, the ‘Tank’ (Thompson) we got in the backfield over there. All the guys, Stone (Forsythe), Chauncey (Gardner) all the newcomers, it's definitely good having guys like that come in, and guys that come in pretty quickly. Coach Kent does a good job of getting the ball rolling in the weight room and them coming out here to help us and produce on the field is huge. And they're only going to get better during the summer. It's a huge advantage over the guys coming in the summer."

Who on the defense is going to surprise?

This wasn’t an easy question for Sherit at first, but then he knew just who to say and joked about the fact that senior linebacker Alex Anzalone has missed a lot of playing time since he came to campus.

"We need to get my boy (Alex) Anzalone to get more than one game out of him,” Sherit said. “He'll shock the world I'm telling you right now. Not only is he a big dude, that guy has some wheels on him. He's one of my best friends and if you can get something out of him he's something serious." 

 

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