Kan Li / Scout

Chris Rumph defines his Gators linemen

When Clemson came calling for Chris Rumph in the offseason it was for good reason. The Gators’ defensive line coach and now co-defensive coordinator is as good as they get in the profession. Rumph met with the Florida media on Friday and was asked about most of his linemen.

The concentration this season has been on developing guys that can get to the passer. Whether it is from the inside or outside, Florida wants to get heat on the quarterback without having to bring pressure from other positions.

Last week in spring practice was big in that area.

"We've got to get better at rushing the passer,” Rumph said following practice on Friday. “Right now we don't have a dominant guy to rush the passer, so that's one of the things we're trying to focus on, key on this week, is just rushing the passer."

Former defensive coordinator Geoff Collins was big on pressure defenses that blitzed a linebacker or someone from the secondary to get immediate heat. New defensive coordinator Randy Shannon likes to line up man-for-man and win the battles. Couple that with the loss of so many good players in the secondary, the staff feels like they need to make sure they are protected enough on the backend.

"Yeah, I hope we get a guy that we can, you know, capable of rushing the passer so we can do that and we don't have to blitz as much as we had to before,” Rumph said. “But all that will come along. We'll get it."

Rumph isn’t worried about the extra weight on the shoulders of his unit. He has been able to get a lot out of whoever he throws on the field in his two years since he’s been here and there is no reason to expect anything different this season. He’s not worried about all of the losses in the secondary and at linebacker.

“It’s always pressure regardless of who’s behind us,” he said. “It’s just our room. We gotta stand up. We gotta hold up. It’s always pressure.”

When asked to name a player or two that he sees can help with getting to the quarterback in a hurry, Rumph listed a trio of defensive ends and a defensive tackle that he feels are on their way.

"Right now (Jabari) Zuniga is a guy that comes to mind off the edge,” he said. Taven (Bryan) is having a really good spring thus far. So we get some guys like them, CeCe (Jefferson), those guys, Keivonnis (Davis), I think we'll be fine."

Still deciding on CeCe?

Last season, junior CeCe Jefferson was moved inside to start the year and played some defensive tackle. It isn’t as if he played the position poorly, but he seemed much more active and made more plays when he was moved back outside. He has trimmed down to 250 pounds now and as mentioned above, he’s getting to the quarterback, but Rumph isn’t totally sold on him not playing some inside.

"Don't know yet, don't know yet” Rumph said when asked if outside was the permanent move. “Right now don't have as many bodies inside. We're light. Hopefully the freshmen coming in, we'll see what happens coming in. But the plan is for him to be on the edge right now."

“I think he’s going to redefine his body. Before he was a little pudgy. He’s already lost some weight now he’s going to put it back on the right way. I don’t wanna say anything bad about fast food restaurants, but just eating bad.”


Polite will play inside and out…

Sophomore Jachai Polite is another one that will see action inside and outside. He came on as a true freshman and played some quality minutes in 2016.

"We're going to see what happens with him,” Rumph said of Polite. “Weight's going to be the biggest thing. How big can he get? Maybe we get in some game plan stuff, we may be able to switch him inside, but he's one of those versatile guys that can go inside or outside."

"For a young guy, he's really smart… for a young guy."


Davis still reacting not playing…

He has been a pleasant surprise at times and then there are the times when he gives up the edge on a play. There is no question about the athleticism that junior Keivonnis Davis displays. If the young man can stay composed and know what he is doing enough to play at a high pace, he can be special.

"He's getting better, man,” Rumph said. “Keivonnis, he's learning the defense. He's playing fast. He's got to play fast every day. He's still just slow sometimes trying to read things instead of just going."



Oh yeah, that guy...

One guy that most have forgotten about is redshirt junior defensive end Justus Reed. He spent almost all of last season rehabbing injuries, but he’s still around and a guy that can make plays when healthy.

“He’s coming back,” Rumph said of Reed. “We want to bring him along slowly. We want to work him back in and get that knee… he’s another guy that has some pass rush ability. We just want to table feed him and then we’ll put him on some real food later.”


The one that everybody talks about…

Sophomore Antonneous Clayton was the biggest name recruit for the Gators in the 2016 class. He has the kind of first step as a defensive end that you just don’t find everywhere and is basically something that can’t be coached. He also has had to add some weight to his body in order to play at this level.

"He's improved. He looked like he had a pretty good day (Friday), flew around, made some plays. Once the game slows down for him, the more he understands, the better he's going to get, the faster he's going to play."

There is still a lot for Clayton to work on according to Rumph.

"Just everything, everything man,” he said. “He's still raw. He's still raw."


The redshirt…

One that didn’t play a year ago is redshirt freshman Jordan Smith. The long and angular defensive end was another that needed to add some weight to his frame and he also has done that. Rumph thinks Smith’s time is coming soon.

“I’m excited about him,” he said about Smith. “The future’s bright for him.”

And when he says future, he believes Smith is going to get going this year.

“No four years, I don’t have four years, I’m not on a four year contract,” Rumph said jokingly. “I would love that. Tell coach Mac and (AD Scott) Stricklin, let’s get a four-year deal done for the Rumph-shaker.”




The new guy…

True freshman Kyree Campbell arrived in January with a lot of size and plenty of ability. So far it has been a good spring for the young big man.

“He’s doing pretty well,” Rumph said of Campbell. “At first he was a little nervous trying to feel himself out but actually I’m making him workout with Taven and Khairi Clark. Just to bring him along. He’s like a little brother they’re just dragging him along. He’s picking it up. He’s going to be alright. I’m pleased with him so far.”


A more active Clark…

Khairi Clark has played some good football for the Gators in the last couple of years. What Rumph needs from his redshirt junior nose tackle is to be able to stay on the field and make even more of those plays.

“"Khairi's doing well, man,” Rumph said. “Slimming down, his cardio's better, and he's able to sustain more. Last year playing and being behind those older guys really helped him."

More snaps are coming for Clark this year. There is little choice at the position.

"Yes,” Rumph said to him playing a lot more this season. “That's one of the things that we're harping on. I kept him out there today a little longer than I would have before, but just wanted to push him a little bit, strain him a little bit."



Fun with the ‘Wyoming Wild Man’…

Rumph is a fun man to talk to. It is almost as if redshirt junior Taven Bryan was made to play for him. The two are so alike, they kind of annoy each other.

Lucky for Rumph, or maybe lucky for Bryan, the young man is having a great spring and expectations are high.

"Man, he's been pretty dominant,” Rumph said of Bryan. “It's been hard blocking him, and he's shown up, not just spots, it's been every drill, every situation you see this guy making plays. He's demanding a double-team, so offenses are going to have to game plan for this guy if he continues to get better as he is now."

Like Bryan said last week, he’s just been soaking up the game and learning more and more as he goes.

"I think just knowledge,” Rumph said as to what is different about him. “Just understanding the defense and being comfortable."

The two have had their moments of disagreement, but as I mentioned, they are cut from the same cloth.

“I had an afro when I first started coaching him,” Rumph said. “But now, go figure.”

Bryan said last week that he has spiked Rumph’s blood pressure a lot over the last two years.

“He’s a very smart guy and he’ll come off sometimes as he’s being cocky but that’s just Taven,” Rumph said. “He’s just carefree. That’s who he is. He loves the game. It took me a while to figure him out and for him to figure me out. He’s bought in and he’s learning and he’s up in the office, doing the same thing Brantley did toward the end of the year last year.”

Rumph was the one that nicknamed him the ‘Wyoming Wild Man’. He’s done with that.

“No I’m not going to give him any nicknames,” he said. “I gave him that name before and he turned out to be the doggone ‘Wyoming Woman.’ Right now he’s just Taven.”

“That’s what he played like. He’s just Taven, just plain old Taven.”


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