Former Player Feedback: Loaded along the line

Jul 18, 2019 | 0 comments

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As the Florida Gators players prepare for the fall, we look back over the spring practices and Orange and Blue Game with former players as each recaps what he saw from his respective positional unit and what he expects from them this fall in our annual F-Club series.


F-Club Series: QB | RB  | WR | OL | TE

In 2018, Jachai Polite turned in the fifth most sacks in a season in school history with 11. He tied Clifford Charlton’s record with six forced fumbles. Polite is now with the New York Jets.

Normally, when a team loses a player of Polite’s caliber, a drop-off would be expected the following season. Instead, the Gators enter the 2019 season potentially deeper and more talented, especially against the run.

Jabari Zuniga enters his senior season as an All-SEC candidate. Jonathan Greenard transferred in from Louisville to replace Polite. He had 15.5 tackles-for-loss and seven sacks in 2017. The top five defensive tackles are back from last season. The end positions are loaded with emerging young talent.

To help us size up UF’s defensive line, Inside the Gators talked with former Gator defensive end Tim Beauchamp. Beauchamp recorded 12.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles-for-loss from 1995-98 and was part of a national championship team.

Beauchamp discussed the depth of Florida’s defensive ends, why he’s not concerned about the depth at tackle, what he likes about Todd Grantham’s defense, his thoughts on Dan Mullen and more.

The Gators lost their leading sacker from last year, but you’ve got to like the group of guys they’ve got back, right?

“Yeah, for sure. I think they’ve got some guys with experience and plus with good size. I think Jachai’s explosion last year helps show those guys that are still there what they’re capable of doing in [Todd] Grantham’s system if they put in the work.”

What stands out to you about Jabari Zuniga?

“It’s ironic that you asked me about him. I know myself and I think it was Johnie Church, when they were recruiting him in high school, coming in on him because we thought that he had great, even in high school, he was raw at the time, but had good explosion for a guy that young. I knew I had a feeling. I was like, ‘Man, he’s going to do good when he comes to Gainesville because he’s got a lot of the things that some guys never get, good hip explosion and just coming off the ball nicely.’ He’s got a heck of a physique. Who wouldn’t want to look like him?”

Oh, my goodness. I love my Coach [Steve] Spurrier. That’s my dawg, and I love him. But, if I could do it all over again, if I was coming out right now, I would love to play for Dan Mullen. You want to talk about a guy that’s high-character. He just seems like a very genuine person. It don’t seem like no show, no act is being put on. It seems like he really loves being Florida’s coach, and I think that’s so important.
Tim Beauchamp

What kind of production are you expecting from him this year? Can he get double-digit sacks?

“A lot of things have to go your way for you to get sacks. But, pressures, those are just [as] important. He could definitely get it. He’s got the capability of doing it, but, a lot of times, you might get a great rush, and somebody might not have covered well. So, it goes hand-in-hand with the DBs. I think he definitely has the potential to do it, but you never know about that part of it.”

He seems to be pretty good at setting the edge in the running game. How valuable is he in that area?

“One thing people don’t realize, get-off of the ball, it works well in run and pass. And, when he gets off the ball and sets the edge, then you can get into those big uglies in the middle, and then you got the good [defensive tackles] that keeping the Mike linebackers free like [David] Reese and able to scrape. He’s always been, to me, very great at the run, making plays in the backfield. I recall, I think it was last year against Georgia on that goal-line stand, he pretty much single-handedly – he’s got great power, great body lean and, to me, he’s an all-around player.”

How excited are you to see Jonathan Greenard?

“Oh, my goodness. I was watching him during the spring game, and I think I tweeted that he was unblockable, if that’s even a word. I don’t know who he was going against, if it was second-string or walk-ons, whatever, it doesn’t even really matter. The guy’s get-off, and, oh man, what a physique. To be that big and to be able to run that fast, he’s a freak of nature. I’m so glad that we got him. Not only is he going to be able to help in the run game, he’s got size, he’s got explosion, he’s got the total package. That’s why I think this D-Line’s got a chance to be very nasty if they can stay healthy.”

What do you think of Kyree Campbell and Adam Shuler in the middle at the tackle spots?

“Shuler, I love his swag, I love the way he goes about business. Guy’s got size, but, of course, you can’t just be big and not be able to move. I was watching his highlights when he was at West Virginia. I was watching him, and I was like, ‘Man, this guy’s going to be able to make some plays.’ But, that’s not really a glory position all the time. You’ll get some plays where they make big plays, but that position is so important because everything begins in the middle on the line. Your defense, your secondary, their favorite people are the D-Linemen because you can only cover so long, and this guy at Mike linebacker’s best friend is the defensive tackle. So, I think those guys, not only are they going to be able to plug the hole, but they can go sideline to sideline. I recall, I went to the LSU game and we was doing the Gator Walk, and I was right behind all [Campbell’s] people, and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I like the man.’ And then after the game, I saw them again. I said, ‘Boy, he balled out.’ He was making plays all over the field during that game, and I was like, ‘Man, he really impressed me.’ I think, once again, like I said, the sky’s the limit for this defensive line. If they can stay healthy and just continue to stay in the backfield, I think they’re going to eat real well this year.”

Are you concerned at all about the depth at tackle? It seems like the guys they have as backups have struggled when they’ve gotten in games before.

“Well, it’s another year. I remember when I was a true freshman, from my year to my sophomore year, my eyes was opened. Sometimes, those guys was thrown in pretty early, so I think they did well at the place they were at that time in their career. I think those guys like T.J. Slaton, he lost weight. What an athlete. I seen this guy dunk a basketball in high school at that size. You’ve got No. 93 (Elijah Conliffe). I think those guys got so much potential, and I believe they’re working. I know Coach [Nick] Savage. I love Coach Savage. I know he’s got those guys working, and it’s only a matter of time. They just got to keep coming. I know those guys going to make plays, and we got a heck of a D-Line coach now. So, I think from year to year, you can see tremendous growth because I know myself, when I first got there, I was just out there, and then as the years went on, I learned how to play football. I think that’s what’s going on with them. In high school, you can just be the most talented guy, and you can just out-talent people. But, once you get up to college and beyond that, you have to learn how to play the game of football, the mental aspect of it. I think those guys are learning the necessities of preparation before games and doing the things in the offseason that’ll take you from different levels. I’ve seen Slaton; that guy is a monster. It looked like he doesn’t have any stomach anymore. Hats off to him and the work he’s put in, and Coach Savage and his staff does a great job.”

How beneficial is the Gators’ depth at defensive end, where they can roll a bunch of guys in there without much of a drop-off?

“Tennessee, back when we used to play, they used to come down like a week early to try to play in this heat to get acclimated to the temperature. Playing in Florida at this time of year, you might be able to go a full series when you can’t get a chance to get out, but you need to roll [guys through] because you want to be fresh in the fourth quarter. You look at Alabama or other teams, Clemson, that continuously are in the thick of things at the end of the year, they have depth, and they can roll guys. It look like it’s a machine, it’s a factory, of monsters that continue to come in. So, as our recruiting gets better and we get these type of guys that they want here, I think it’s going to be essential for us to take that next step, and I think they’re heading in the right direction. Those guys, I feel after the next 2-3 years, we’re going to be hard to deal with.”

What is your early impression of David Turner?

“From just briefly seeing things, it seems like he’s a players’ coach. The guys love being around him. It seems like he knows how to grill. I saw some of those ribs that he barbecued for the last D-Line get-to-together. I was like, ‘Wow, man. We didn’t get ribs like that. [Rod] Broadway didn’t cook no ribs like that or Bob Sanders.’ But, he seems like a guy that young folks want to be around, and that’s all you can ask for because you know at that level, most guys are going to know X’s and O’s. It’s mostly going to come down to how can he relate to the players, how can he get the best out of each player? He seems like he’s got that type of personality where the guys are going to draw to constructive criticism. He seems like he’s just got a great personality.”

What do you like about Todd Grantham’s defense?

“Attack. I love an attacking style. We got such great corners. If they can stay healthy, I believe we’re going to really be able to open it up even more than we did last year. And then last year too, every year it seemed like they was getting a new person calling the plays. So now, they’ve got a little continuity. You got Grantham going to be back two years in a row and, you know, we’re learning a new system. He’s going to be able to spoon-feed those guys, and I think as time goes on, we’re really going to get a great idea of what the total picture going to look like. Grantham, he’s got a great attacking system. I’m always to the knowledge that don’t sit back and let somebody beat you to death. Take chances. We’ve got corners that’re out there that can cover. Leave them on an island, and let’s make plays, caused fumbles, turnovers. The turnover margin wins games, so I love it. I love it.”

What are your thoughts on Dan Mullen as a head coach after one season?

“Oh, my goodness. I love my Coach [Steve] Spurrier. That’s my dawg, and I love him. But, if I could do it all over again, if I was coming out right now, I would love to play for Dan Mullen. You want to talk about a guy that’s high-character. He just seems like a very genuine person. It don’t seem like no show, no act is being put on. It seems like he really loves being Florida’s coach, and I think that’s so important. Now, I was looking at the locker rooms and the things that’ve been initiated. On top of that, Scott Stricklin, he’s doing a great job, too. But, I just love the feeling that we have right now in the program. I know feelings change as you get adversity in the season and all that, but I just think that we have the best person that we could have for that job right now. And, I think he understands because he was there before. He was there with Urban, and I think that being a person that can understand the Gator Nation, the whole thing with being at the University of Florida, and he understands it well. I’m loving the way he’s operating so far. I think just the way he took control of Feleipe [Franks], getting him back on track. Everybody wanted to throw Feleipe away, but he knows how to get things right. I trust him fully, and I’m just glad he’s our coach.”

What are your expectations for the season? Can the Gators challenge Georgia in the SEC East?

“I’m going to be honest with you, I ain’t ever going to think we can’t ever challenge Georgia. I always believe we can beat Georgia. When you’re a player, you believe you can win every game. You don’t go into a game thinking you’re going to lose. You might be foolish or whatever, but I definitely believe that we can not only challenge, I believe that we can beat Georgia. They’ve got a great team; don’t get me wrong. They’ve got a great team, and they’ve got a great coaching staff. And, that’s just obvious. They’ve got great recruiting, but we’re the Florida Gators. We ain’t backing down to anybody, so I think we can definitely win. Not only win that, but we can push to try to win this SEC Championship, not only that and push to get into that playoff and see what happens. Anybody can win any game; that’s why they play the games. If it all was won on paper, people would already have picked Alabama and Clemson to be back in the championship game. But, good thing the game is played in between the lines. If we can stay healthy – that’s the key to everything, and that’s every team really – if we can stay healthy and continue to make strides week in and week out, even if you lose a game. Every championship that we’ve won, we haven’t made it perfectly through it. So, even if we do have a little adversity, I still believe that Coach knows how to get his players back on line. I love the speech that he had, I think it was after Missouri, where he talked about if he thumb-wrestled you, anything, he wanted to whoop you. I love that because it challenges you, and it makes you take a look in the mirror and understand that, ‘Hey, I didn’t come here to be half-stepping. I came here to win a championship. We ain’t come here to just win the East; we came to Florida to win national championships.’”

Stay tuned to Inside the Gators for the remaining F-Club series as we talk to more former players about their respective units heading into fall camp.


Inside the Gators F-Club Positional Breakdown series isn't associated with the official University of Florida F-Club

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