Kan Li / Scout

Gators' Worton knows if you blink and it could be over

Florida wide receiver C.J. Worton was living in big time obscurity for most of his two year on campus in Gainesville. One big play in the SEC Championship Game in 2015 and a lot of people were taking notice all of a sudden. A quiet bowl game for the junior from Homestead left an empty feeling. Now Worton knows it is time to step up.

As in most of the Gators on the roster, C.J. Worton is really looking forward to a new season. Florida finished a surprising first in the SEC East last year, but the end of the season was full of disappointment on the offensive side as the ‘O’ went in the tank with numerous issue it faced down the stretch.

Worton and the rest of the receivers are ready to have a strong August leading up to a new season of hope.

“It’s going awesome right now,” Worton said at the Gators’ media day on Wednesday and before fall practice started. “I’m excited for camp. Being able to put back on the pads, when you do it you don’t enjoy it, but as soon as you take those pads off and the equipment managers take them, you miss it.

“We had a good spring and we are ready to let all the momentum roll into the fall… we’re getting there.”

Worton was a forgotten man for his first two years. He will tell you he wasn’t the best of teammates and lacked the maturity needed to get on the field. It was a huge surprise when he was inserted and made the big play against Alabama in Atlanta in early December. He wants to be able to do more of that.

 “I’m getting older and maturing more,” he said. “You come in as a freshman and you think you have all the time in the world and don’t have responsibilities. As time has gone on I realize I am already a junior and I haven’t done what I wanted to do. Time starts getting short and I really had to start paying attention and taking advantage of every opportunity. That is something Coach Mac has talked to me a lot about.

“I am willing to bust my butt and make a block for one of these guys, when before I would think about saving my legs for the next play in practice. It’s just us giving of ourselves to help our teammates to be the best we can be.”

He also got on the same page as head coach Jim McElwain. After wandering mostly aloof for two years doing his own thing and not wanting to do the things that would allow him to get on the field, McElwain also noticed the talent and set out to get him on the right page.

“I really started to believe in him and he’s told me I can be as good as I want to be and I want to be the best,” Worton said of his head coach. “I’ve been pushing myself and trying to be a better teammate to everybody else and be positive as much as possible. It has really worked out for me.”

McElwain is excited about Worton after what he says has been a terrific offseason for the south Florida potential star.

“I'll say one thing about C.J.,” McElwain started. “He is another guy that has come a long, long ways moving forward. He's a guy that I think even when you see his body, you'll see the importance of the nutrition piece, the importance of finishing everything you do and your attention to your daily detail.

“It will be interesting to see where it carries over but he's had an outstanding summer; a guy that has really been a go-to guy for our (quarterbacks).

If you asked his teammates they would tell you that for two years Worton has made big plays in practice. Whether he was going against the starters as a member of the scout team or against the scout team working in the rotation, he made plays when the ball was thrown his direction.

He finally got the chance in the SEC title game when he caught a floating bomb from quarterback Treon Harris in the end zone. Worton skied over the All-SEC secondary from Alabama and came down with the ball 46-yards from the line of scrimmage and one of the biggest plays of the year on an offense that really lacked them, especially as the season wound down.

One has to wonder if that play made a light come on of sorts for Worton, he says no. He also says that play means nothing anymore and he is ready to make more.

“It definitely creates momentum in showing that I could do it,” he said. “I knew before then and my teammates knew. They had faith in me that when I got the opportunity that I would make the best of it. I am not looking back any more, I am ready to make more big plays and let people talk about that. I’m just excited for what is ahead.

Likes his receiver group…

Recruiting rankings aren’t everything, sometimes they are way off. As it pertains to Florida receivers, an argument could be made that the output of the group over the last several years directly correlates to the recruiting rankings of the guys in that group.

Worton says there is more to it.

“We’ve always had talented receivers, it has just been the attitude in the room,” he said. “In my freshman year we had Andre Debose and Quinton Dunbar but they just never really peaked when they were here. You see them in the NFL and they are thriving. The atmosphere… when we came in guys were complacent and there wasn’t much competition.

“Now, we have so many guys that are all good and willing to compete and work hard and we have coaches that want to play the best players regardless. We’ve been pushing each other, but we always have each other’s back.

Worton sees big things ahead.

“We’re a really close group now and we hang out a lot more,” he said. “We’re just very tight and care about each other which is something Coach Mac has talked about a lot.

“I know we have the talent and all of us have the talent. We all believe and know as a unit and now we are ready to show it.”


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