Expectations for defensive end Antonneous Clayton were through the roof when he arrived on Florida’s campus three years ago.
Now, he enters his junior season without much success to his name in his college career.
An illness caused him to lose a great deal of weight before his freshman season that he could never fully come back from. Then, he showed some promise in last spring’s Orange and Blue Debut and seemed to be in line for a breakout, but again fizzled out and didn’t get many opportunities in the 2017 season.
After Saturday’s spring game, Clayton said his first two years didn’t go as planned, but he may have finally found his chance to thrive under the new coaching staff.
“I can either stand up and play BUCK or put my hand in the dirt and I’m just moving all around,” Clayton said. “We’re not just playing gaps, we’re not just playing blocks. Coach Sal [Sunseri] emphasizes that a lot. Last year you got to play blocks. This year we’re going to move you around, we’re gonna stand you up, rush you off the edge, cover the tight end, cover guys. So as far as this defense, this defense really fits me. I think this is my defense.”
It definitely appeared to be his defense this spring, and he proved that a little more as he totaled six tackles (three for loss), a quarterback hurry and two sacks on the day.
His sacks came back-to-back on Kyle Trask to close out the first half, but was all over the field for most of the game.
Clayton may still have a lot to learn, but one thing is for sure, his effort is never lacking.
Now, he wants to keep that same effort and physical ability while continually improving the mental side of his game. He said the sacks are easy, but not sticking to the assignment and having the proper technique are what have held him back for so long.
That is something he must take upon himself to work on, but his coaches and teammates love how hard he goes every single play.
“He’s always had it in him,” said junior linebacker David Reese. “That man has a motor, he’s going to give it all he has until he has no more. He’s going to keep running to the ball.”
With spring in the rearview, Clayton has the summer to elevate his game even more. The workout program will be a key for him.
He is now playing at a weight closer to where he wants to be (260), but he knows a good summer with Nick Savage could be just what he needs.
“I’m already strong, but there’s no reason not to get stronger,” Clayton said. “As far as for me, it’s my stamina and conditioning. You know, guys like Jachai Polite, he’s running plays down all the way down the field and I’m like, ‘Man, if he can do that, I can do that.’ But I have to have the stamina to do that.”
Clayton is more confident than he’s ever been in his career at Florida. It may be a cliché, but it’s better late than never.
He is ready to put his inconsistencies behind him and make the name for himself that he expected to from the beginning.