Bryan Cox Jr. is attracting a lot of attention as a senior. Last week, SEC Network football analyst Booger McFarland called the Gators’ defensive end the second best defensive lineman in the SEC. That is high praise for the conference that has more defensive linemen in the NFL than any other in America, and the numbers aren’t close.
Cox is a perfectionist and has been working on the details of his game to get better this fall camp.
"Just working on the small things,” he answered when asked what he wants to improve heading into the 2016 season. “Usually you work on knowing the plays and all that. Now I'm so advanced I know those, just the nuances of the game."
Cox came to Florida from the high profile St. Thomas Aquinas program in Ft. Lauderdale. With his pedigree handed down from his father and the excellent coaching at Aquinas, he has played at a high level for many years in this game.
While his father is busy as a coach with the Atlanta Falcons, he doesn’t get to watch junior in person very much. Still, the two stay in contact and dad is always lending his advice.
"He really doesn't have a big chance to see, because their season's at full swing right now,” Cox said. “The advice that he's been giving me is just work on the small things and then, you know, everything else will happen.
“Last year he was at LSU, he's come to a few games here and, you know, he's proud of me but he says I gotta pick up a few things in order to reach that elite status."
"He's very tough on me,” he said when asked. “In high school he was even tough on me. H treats me like I'm one of his players. It's kind of a good thing in my eyes, because I get that experience for when I go to the next level. And also having a guy like my pops, that's been through it all, is a good person to talk to."
Cox reciprocates the knowledge he has gained to the younger guys along the defensive line. There are a slew of them and line coach Chris Rumph likes to use a bunch, so he understands the importance of the young guys getting ready.
"(I) Just work with them off the field… you know, extra time, he said. “We're trying to get around eight, nine guys that can legitimately come in and compete. We're getting to that number. We're probably at seven or eight right now."
Cox talked about a few young linemen that are stepping up for the Gators including freshmen Jachai Polite, Antonneous Clayton, and Jabari Zuniga. He couldn’t finish without mentioning sophomores CeCe Jefferson and Keivonnis Davis as well.
"Jachai Polite has been doing really well,” Cox said. “He came in just recently this summer and he's been doing real well. Obviously CeCe's been doing good and rotating down to 3-tech a little bit. He's been holding his own down there, doing pretty well. And then Keivonnis, he's still been coming along and doing his thing. I think we really have a strong group, honestly."
(Clayton’s) got a quick first step. Self-proclaimed, he says he has a really fast first step. He does. He needs to add a little more weight to be able to really contribute for us. But he might be a nice third-down threat for us."
“(Zuniga’s) been playing end this year. He's been doing really well as well. I've been kind of mentoring him, trying to get him right and get him up to speed with everything."
Jefferson will play more of a defensive tackle role in 2016. Team needs and his quickness and strength pushed him inside this season. Cox sees big things from the young star.
“Me and ole Carl we talk a lot,” he said. ”He was a real nice presence for us last year. They moved him inside this year, now he’s playing that same role as Caleb Brantley. I think he can be really disruptive in that role.”
A big question on the defensive line is how they are going to replace the pass rush vacated by the loss of Jonathan Bullard and Alex McCalister to the NFL. Cox says they have some answers.
"Well, last year I played a lot of right side but I'm actually more comfortable on the left,” Cox said. “So this year I think I can pick that up a little bit. And obviously the young guys can come in and contribute at that position.
"In the middle you're going to have to account for 57 (junior defensive tackle Caleb Brantley), I'll tell you that right now. You'll have to account for him and once you account for him, (I’m going to)be coming off one edge and we'll have Jabari, KD, you know all kinds of guys rotating in, fresh legs and they all can run, so we'll be good."
Cox says we are going to get an eyeful of Brantley in 2016.
"Last year he was at Nose because Bullard was at the three, but now he's got a chance to play that three tech position and flourish, so I think he's going to do real well.
"He's explosive and he's just a disruptive presence. He's somebody that you've got to have two hats on him at all times, and if you don't he's gonna make you pay for it.
“It makes my life a lot easier."
YOUNG LINEBACKERS COMING ALONG AS WELL
Florida is looking to find some depth behind linebacker starters Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone. After a two year haul of just one backer on the recruiting trail, some freshmen are going to have to step up. Enter redshirts Rayshad Jackson and Kylan Jonson (KC) along with true freshmen David Reese, Vosean Joseph, and Jeremiah Moon.
"Moon, he's a real long, rangy guy,” Cox said. “I believe he'll be able to help us, especially in the pass rush aspect. I think he can rush the passer. Reese, he's been doing really, really well. These past few days, he's been coming along. He's flashing on film every time."
It's real important for us to have Reese come along, and then ‘KC’ also come along. And then we have Vosean, Vosean's been looking really good as well."
Reese arrived on campus in January and started the fall way ahead of the others in his class. Cox says he has come a long way.
"He's grown a lot, you know (Jarrad Davis) is a good guy to be under,” Cox said. “He learned a lot from JD, and he's come along real well with this part of the game, the mental part of the game. So it's helping him a lot."
Reese learns fast and Cox doesn’t see any issues with having him out on the field.
"I don't think so, cause I mean we all get around him and we'll help him out if needed, but I don't think he'll have a problem with that,” he said. “He's a smart kid."