Hopper looking to build on strong performance against Missouri

There weren’t many positives to take away from the Gators’ 24-23 loss to Missouri last week, but Ty’Ron Hopper’s performance was definitely one of them.

With Jeremiah Moon sidelined with an injury, the redshirt sophomore linebacker received his second career start, and he made the most of his opportunity. He led the team with a career-high 12 tackles (11 solo), with two of his tackles resulting in losses, also a career best. His previous career high had been seven tackles.

“It felt really good,” Hopper said. “I felt like we had a really great game plan. We just had a lot of fire on defense. Everybody was playing well, and I just gravitated off that, just other guys playing well, and that helped me.”

Athleticism has never been a problem for Hopper, as he played defensive back early in his high school career before transitioning to linebacker. He can run sideline to sideline and cover running backs and tight ends with the best of them.

However, being physical enough to stop running plays and filling his gap correctly have been issues for him throughout his career. He’s been the type of player that will wow you by chasing a guy down from 20 yards away to make the tackle. Then you watch the replay and realize that the only reason that player gained 20 yards of separation to begin with was because of a bad angle that Hopper took.

Hopper is pleased with how his development has gone as he continues to get more comfortable playing close to the line of scrimmage.

“It’s been really good,” he said. “I have a really great linebacker coach with [Christian Robinson], and I have a great strength staff with Coach [Nick] Savage and his staff. So, it’s been really good for me.”

The Missouri game was his most consistent effort to date. He executed his assignments and made the tackles that were there to be made. He helped the Gators limit the SEC’s leading rusher, Tyler Badie, to just 19 yards in the first half.

“I just felt like, as a defense, we were just locked in all week, practicing hard, getting to the ball, and we’re doing that this week, too,” Hopper said. “So, I expect the same thing from the whole D.”

Robinson said that he was pleased with how Hopper played against Missouri, but he wasn’t surprised. That was the player that he thought he was getting when he recruited him as a top-100 prospect. He hopes that performance will boost Hopper’s confidence and serve as a launching pad for the rest of his career.

“When he first got here, I said, ‘One day, you’re going to see what you become in following the plan,’” Robinson said. “I think the thing I love most in getting to work with him is that you see he’s grown so much, and, sometimes, they don’t see those things in themselves as it’s happening. But we do. I’ve watched every rep he’s taken here at Florida, and to see him improve and to see him trust what we said.

“And like anything, he’s learned about me as I’m learning about him being his coach. To see him believe in himself and to see him go perform, I’d expect that from him for the rest of his career, and he’s going to continue to do that.”

Ethan was born in Gainesville and has lived in the Starke, Florida, area his entire life. He played basketball for five years and knew he wanted to be a sportswriter when he was in middle school. He’s attended countless Gators athletic events since his early childhood, with baseball being his favorite sport to attend. He’s a proud 2019 graduate of the University of Florida and a 2017 graduate of Santa Fe College. He interned with the University Athletic Association’s communications department for 1 ½ years as a student and has spent the last two football seasons writing for InsideTheGators.com. He is a long-suffering fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tampa Bay Rays. You can follow him on Twitter @ehughes97.