FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
- Coach's Corner: Q&A with former UF assistant Red Anderson
- The Inside Scoop: Behind the scenes on Blades dismissal
- Former Florida Player Feedback: 10 Observations
- Inside the Gators: Mock Signing Class 5.0
- Former Florida Football Players share thoughts on the state of the program
- Florida's Terrific 10 Targets
- One-on-One with Steve Spurrier (Audio added)
- Where are they Now: Shane Matthews talks Florida Football
On Monday night, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham along with Antonio Valentino, Stewart Reese, and Jadarrius Perkins met with the media to discuss Saturday’s 42-0 win over Vanderbilt and preview this weekend’s matchup with rival LSU.
Here are the main takeaways.
- Grantham opened the press conference by discussing that LSU is still a dangerous team despite the number of injuries the Tigers have. LSU announced today that wide receiver Kayshon Boutte will miss the rest of the season with a leg injury. “It’s going to be the same offense. When you look at them, they have a lot of skill,” Grantham said. They’ve got some dynamic guys that can stretch the field vertically. It’s not going to change what they do. They will just distribute the ball to different people.”
- Grantham talked about LSU quarterback Max Johnson, who made his first career start against the Gators last season. “Max has done a really good job of developing from year one to year two,” he said. He understands where to throw the ball. He’s got a strong arm. He’s got enough athletic ability to where he can extend plays. They can run quarterback runs with him. He’ll be a challenge for us to go play.” In 2020, Johnson threw for 239 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ upset win over the Gators.
- Talking about the general Florida-LSU rivalry, Grantham describes it as “a big man’s rivalry.” “They (LSU) are going to be physical and work to control the line of scrimmage. We understand that we have to play as a unit,” he said. Florida must be fundamentally sound in the run game with setting the edge and in the pass game with covering down the field. “We just have to play to our ability and execute what we do well.” He also described the rivalry as elevated when compared to other rivalries because of the recent close games.
- Last year’s infamous shoe-toss played a big part in the Gators losing to LSU, but Grantham said he doesn’t think about it too much. “Everything that you do in life is, from an educational standpoint, to help us in a positive way,” he said. “We understand that we cannot do things that will shoot ourselves in the foot. We’ve got to be able to go out and execute and not beat ourselves. As examples come out throughout the year, you always try to use those. You’re always looking for ways to educate guys.” He mentioned that, as a coach, you try to forget specific situations like that as time goes on, but they usually get brought up again.
- Halfway through the season, Grantham likes where the Gators are as a defense. “I like our work ethic. I like where we are,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about competing. It’s about winning games, and it’s about being hard to score on.” Grantham noted that the Gators’ defense has only given up 37 points in the last 15 quarters of SEC play.
- Grantham praised starting safeties Rashad Torrence II and Trey Dean. “I think those guys have improved unbelievably,” he said. “It really goes to show you how important offseason training is.” Grantham pointed out that this is the first year that Dean has taken most of his snaps at safety, and Torrence has taken the most overall snaps at safety since last season. He described both of them as “conscientious,” and said, “Both of those guys are leaders.”
- Valentino opened the press conference by chugging an entire bottle of water before answering questions. He said the large amount of water that he drinks stems from a lesson learned during camp. “I learned my lesson the hard way when it comes to hydration while living down here,” he said. “It rained the day before, so it was humid. There are no clouds and we’re on the field. I felt like someone was holding a magnifying glass under the sun and pointed it right on the field. I’m not going to lie, I contemplated whether I really wanted to play football anymore.” Valentino added that he had never been in a camp where there were scheduled water breaks before coming to Florida. Describing his hydration habits, he said he drinks water as much as he can and that the players are tested every day. “I just drink until I can’t anymore.”
- Although a transfer from Penn State, Valentino understands the significance of Death Valley and the Florida-LSU rivalry. “This is one of the games I was really looking forward to because it is one of the greater environments in the SEC,” Valentino said. “It’s one of the greater environments in college football.” He was also able to watch last year’s game because Penn State played at an earlier time that day. “It looked like Thriller and like Michael Jackson was about to come out,” he said about the foggy environment. “It looked like a movie.” Although he did not play, he remembers watching the craziness of the game but pointed out that he has also made mistakes that have cost the team. He used his penalty on Tre’Vez Johnson’s interception return against Kentucky as an example. “Football is a game played by emotional people, and sometimes your emotions get the best of you,” he said. He pointed out that he does not know Marco Wilson personally and was not a part of the team during that game, but he understands the feeling.
- Valentino had a lot to say about punter Jeremy Crawshaw, who had a great game against Vanderbilt. “The funny thing that I have found about Australians is that their O’s sound like R’s,” he said when discussing his accent. “Obviously he was kicking the ball all over the place on Saturday,” he added. “He had the major fake punt. It was good to see him get some attention.”
- Valentino added to Grantham’s statement about Johnson. “He’s a very good quarterback,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him.” He added that the defense must improve on the missed tackles if they are going to stop LSU’s powerful run game.
- Reese, a transfer from Mississippi State, has plenty of experience playing LSU and in Death Valley. “It’s a hostile environment. The culture of LSU is a lot different than Kentucky,” Reese explained. “I’ve only played there one time, and it wasn’t bad, but now I’m playing there under different circumstances.” On the rivalry, Reese said that it is a pretty big rivalry, but that it really doesn’t get any more hostile than Mississippi State-Ole Miss. When asked if this week was a must-win game, Reese said that every game is must-win. Adding to Grantham’s earlier statement, he said that this game is an offensive line versus defensive line game, and it comes down to whichever group wants it more.
- Reese also went over the snap count issues that the Gators had while playing in Lexington and the adjustments they made heading into this week. “We’ve adjusted. There’s no problems with the snap count anymore,” he said. “This week is going to be a lot better than Kentucky.”
- Reese praised quarterback Emory Jones for his development through the first half of the season. “He’s become a lot more vocal as a quarterback,” he said. “Stepping into the leadership role as a quarterback can be very daunting. He had growing pains at first, but we worked with him. He’s stepped into the leadership role and taken it by the horns.” He added that the biggest thing that Jones and everyone needs to understand that he isn’t Kyle Trask. “Emory has to step in and use the tools he has to benefit the team,” he said. “He’s Emory. He’s not Kyle. They have two different styles of play.”
- Perkins discussed the rivalry between the Tigers and the Gators. “It’s an intense game. It’s going to be a rowdy crowd,” he said. “We have to be ready to play because they are going to be ready to play.” Saturday’s game will be an 11:00 a.m. kickoff in local time because Baton Rouge is an hour behind Gainesville, but Perkins is not worried about that. “We’re ready to play anytime.”
- On the midseason point for the defense, Perkins said the Gators have come a long way as a unit. “We came really far throughout these six games,” he said. “We still have a lot to work on, but we’re coming together. We had a really good part of the season.” Perkins explained that if there was one area the Gators defense needed to improve on the most, it would be tackling.
- Perkins, a transfer, has come a long way in learning Grantham’s defense. When he first arrived, he spent most of his time at corner, but made the switch to the STAR position during fall camp. “This last game allowed me to get a lot more snaps and reps. I came into practice today feeling a lot more comfortable.” After Johnson was ejected for targeting early in the Vanderbilt game, Perkins got the most snaps at STAR for the rest of the game. He praised Torrence II and Dean for their leadership and for helping make the position change easier. “They make sure I know what I’m doing, even if I know what I’m doing,” Perkins said. “I really appreciate those guys.
- Perkins spent a lot of time talking about teammate Diwun Black, who was his teammate at Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College, and that Black played a part in his decision to enroll at Florida. “He knew I was going to hit the portal before anyone else did,” Perkins said. “After that, I got a call from Coach Grantham and (cornerbacks coach) Jules (Montinar). After I talked to those guys, I knew I was coming to Florida.” He said being with Black felt like playing at MGCJC. “We would look at each other and say, ‘We’re really here. This is crazy.’ Sharing that experience with him is crazy.” Perkins explained that he learned a lot while playing JUCO, and that although the size of the teams are different, the speed is almost the same.
WCC: Updates on everything Todd Grantham and the players had to say can be seen HERE.