New Florida teammates can't say enough good things about Cox

Aug 20, 2019 | 0 comments

Normally, when fall camp rolls around, a team’s roster is pretty much set, and all of the focus is on football. That has been far from the case for the Gators over the past month or so.

Signees Diwun Black, Deyavie Hammond and Arjei Henderson never enrolled at UF due to academic issues. Wardrick Wilson is still waiting on some immigration paperwork to get squared away before he can enroll. Defensive back John Huggins was dismissed from the team for undisclosed reasons.

In an off-season filled with negative headlines on the personnel front, Florida got a huge jolt of positive momentum on Aug. 9 when they landed Georgia linebacker/defensive end transfer Brenton Cox.

Upon arrival, Cox, a sophomore, became the only composite five-star on the Gators’ roster.

His reasons for leaving Georgia are unknown. When he entered the transfer portal, reports surfaced that he had been dismissed from the program. Later reports, and even UGA coach Kirby Smart, indicated that he left on his own, possibly due to conflicts with his coaches and teammates.

As soon as he entered the portal, he targeted UF as a possible destination. He reached out to several Gators players to get their assessment of the program and the coaching staff, Dan Mullen said. Cox apparently liked what he heard, as he was enrolled and practicing with the team in a matter of days.

“I think he knew a lot of the guys on the team, understood defensively he was a great fit for the scheme we run on defense, the positional fit,” Mullen said. “That and the opportunity – he’s not going real far from home. His mom can come watch him play still and be close to home.”

Cox played in 13 games for the Bulldogs last season, and he made his first career start against Texas in the Sugar Bowl and recorded six tackles. He exited spring practice as a projected starter at linebacker before he was arrested in May for misdemeanor marijuana possession. It’s unknown if he was facing disciplinary action for that arrest or if it played a factor in his departure from Athens.

At 6-foot-4, 247 pounds, he has the size and speed to play linebacker or defensive end. He’s practicing at Buck, a hybrid end/linebacker position, right now. He could be the replacement for Jonathan Greenard in 2020.

He’s only been on campus for a little less than two weeks, but he’s already impressed his new teammates and coaches.

“He’s phenomenal,” receiver Trevon Grimes said. “He’s good, he’s fast, he’s quick. He actually has some move that I’ve never seen before. He’s phenomenal, and I feel like he’ll be a great add-on to our defense.”

Grimes added that the awe-inducing move Cox made was similar to a spin move, but he didn’t know exactly how to describe it. He said Cox will improve the defense and help the offensive line get better in practice.

Receiver Freddie Swain said that, despite Cox only being a sophomore, he can tell that he’s a bit more advanced than the other young edge rushers.

“Gets off the ball so fast and kind of shocks you,” he said. “Really ain’t expecting it, then he comes off spinning. He moves kind of like a receiver.”

Defensive tackle Kyree Campbell said he’s also been impressed with how quickly Cox gets off the ball. He said having a dynamic guy like that rushing off the edge will force quarterbacks to step up in the pocket, providing sack opportunities for himself and the other tackles.

“He comes off the ball fast,” Campbell said. “He got a lot of moves, so I can’t wait to – I mean, we’ve seen it out here, what he can do. So, I can’t wait for him to showcase it.”

Campbell’s neighbor on the defensive line, Adam Shuler, said he’s liked the passion for the game, the motor and the willingness to compete that Cox has displayed so far.

While Mullen said he is optimistic that a waiver will get approved for Cox to play in games this season, the reality is that he’ll likely have to sit out. As an intraconference transfer, he must get a waiver approved by both the NCAA and the SEC. If the league office were to approve Cox to play immediately despite transferring just two weeks before the season, that would create a slippery slope that they probably don’t want to have to deal with.

Despite Cox’s status for 2019 being up in the air, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said he has done everything asked of him so far and has bought into the way the Gators do things.

“He's got a lot of talent,” he said. “We're still working on the habits he needs to be successful at the position he plays.”

One thing you have to worry about with adding a guy like Cox to the roster this close to the season is team chemistry. How will the players respond to a hot-shot five-star recruit transferring in from a rival school and possibly stealing playing time and practice reps from them?

Grimes said that won’t be an issue. It doesn’t matter where he came from or how he got here; all that matters is that he’s a Gator now.

“At the end of the day, business is business, and we’re going to embrace him, love him like a brother and that’s what he is to us now, he’s a brother,” he said. “He’s on our team now and we look forward to having him, and we’re going to embrace him just like anybody else.”

Added Shuler: “It’s not that hard, especially when we see somebody who wants to work. As long as whoever comes in [is] ready to work, we’ll accept them.”

Landing a big-time transfer such as Cox is always huge, but the Gators landing him from Georgia is like delivering a double-whammy to the Bulldogs. Now, he’ll look to deliver a whammy to opposing quarterbacks – whether it’s this season or years to follow.

Tags: Sport

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