For most of this season I’ve felt like a bit of a dummy, predicting that Cornelius Ingram would be the # 1 emerging player on the Gator football team. After nine weeks Ingram had a total of just ten catches and aside from the Tennessee game none was all that important.
Still, I maintained faith and it was rewarded when the 6’5” receiver from Hawthorne caught ten passes in the final three games of the season. So encouraged was I that I listed Ingram as the offensive player who I thought could have a huge game against Arkansas. Well, lo and behold Ingram caught a career high six passes for 71 in helping the Gators win the SEC Title and advance to the BCS National Championship Game.
I spoke with the third-year sophomore after practice the other day about this season and what lies ahead.
LV: Cornelius, you had just ten catches in the first nine games, but 16 in the last four. What has made the difference in you becoming so much more involved in the offense?
CI: I think it’s the drive that I’ve had during the last four or five weeks of practice. I really came out and practiced harder than I did in the previous weeks because I want to make sure I finish the season the right way. Coach is always saying if you practice hard, if you do it in practice it’ll roll over into the game. So I’ve been trying to practice harder, make sure I get everything down pat so I can be reliable to the coaches.
LV: Was there also a factor of it taking time for Chris to be more aware of you in the offense since he has three guys (Baker, Caldwell, Cornelius) he’s been throwing to for the past three years?
CI: Definitely, I think me and Percy (Harvin) are the two new guys so it’s understandable. Chris has been throwing to those guys his whole career and he’s very comfortable with them. It’s nothing to stress about, it just takes time for quarterbacks and receivers to develop that chemistry. The last couple of weeks it’s been me getting the ball, but any of the receivers on this team are capable of having a big game.
LV: How much satisfaction to do you get when you look at a stat sheet and see four catches, six catches and know you’re contributing in a big way?
CI: It’s nice. I can’t lie about that, but all that matters is that we keep winning. The chemistry on this team is such that even if the catches didn’t come to me, they would to someone else so it really doesn’t matter. The catches are pretty good, but everyone on the just wants to win. We were able to get to the SEC Championship and now we get a chance at the National Championship.
LV: Eight months ago the Gator Basketball Team won the National Championship and people were really digging you about choosing football and missing out on all that. But you kept saying you were determined to win a national championship with the football team. I’m sure everyone was saying, “Yeah right” but now it’s real. How strange is that?
CI: It’s crazy. Ever since the basketball team got back students have been telling us that it’s up to us to get one in football; so that’s been our mindset since the summer. I think the seniors have kept us focused through the summer and through two-a-days and all the hard practices to keep our eyes on that goal.
LV: So are you going to win yourself a ring that you can show to Al (Horford), Joakim (Noah) and the rest of the guys?
CI: Oh yeah, oh yeah!
Mark the battle between Ingram and Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman as one of the more significant match ups for the title game. The way Ingram has been coming on, however, don’t be surprised to see the Buckeyes commit their strong safety Brandon Mitchell to that assignment.