Vernon Hargreaves kicked things off with our sophomore spotlight. To keep things fair, we hopped over to the offense, highlighting Ahmad Fulwood and the need for a playmaker to emerge at receiver.
Today we’ll switch gears again (just to keep you on your toes) and head back over to the defense. It is, after all, the bread and butter of Will Muschamp’s Florida Gators.
There’s a saying in baseball that you want to be strong up the middle with a solid catcher, middle infield and a center fielder to command the offense. Unlike in past years, Florida doesn’t appear to be as strong up the middle after losing players like Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley, Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins and Matt Elam to the NFL.
Fortunately for Muschamp’s defense, a linebacker he took a chance on two years ago is poised to emerge and take his place in the line of recent great linebackers to play for the Gators.
2013 Stats: 24 tackles (16 solo), 2 tackles for a loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass broken up
Jarrad Davis was somewhat an afterthought in the 2013 recruiting class. Florida was busy flipping big names like Alex Anzalone and Matt Rolin and had a linebacker from just up the road in Jacksonville committed in Daniel McMillian. The Peach State linebacker was seemingly lost in the shuffle until, well, until he wasn’t.
“We’re very pleased with where he’s at obviously,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said of Davis last season. “That’s a guy that is someone we build around here.”
That statement wasn’t on the same page as what was expected of Davis when he was a recruit. Heck, it wasn’t in the same book or even in the same library.
But Davis worked.
Seven games in to his rookie campaign Davis walked out to the midfield in Columbia, Missouri as a captain.
Davis impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic, football IQ and tenacious approach to the game. He didn’t just impress the coaching staff, he earned the respect of his teammates as well.
“He might be as well-respected of a player in our locker room as anyone because it’s real,” Muschamp said of Davis. “When you’ve earned the respect of the coaching staff, its one thing, when you’ve earned the respect of your teammates it’s another.”
Davis earned that respect. As mentioned before, Davis didn’t arrive on campus with the fanfare of Vernon Hargreaves, or even the other players at his position. He didn’t concern himself with that, instead he focused on ding everything the coaching staff asked of him as well as doing the little things off the field to prepare himself as if he was a starter.
Davis first made his impact on special teams before transitioning into the linebacker rotation after doors opened due to injury.
Davis capitalized on that opportunity and has worked his way into the starting linebacker rotation with Neiron Ball and Antonio Morrison. Last year the quiet kid from Kingsland, Georgia caught everyone by surprise.
“I feel like it was a great opportunity for a lot of younger guys to get out, especially myself. I played a lot at the end of the season last year,” Davis said after the Orange and Blue Debut.
“But coach Muschamp was telling us, ‘You might have came in last year due to injuries but you’re coming in this year, this spring right now, you’ve got a chance to show what you can do.’ So I felt like it was a great opportunity for the young players.”
Gator fans know his name but after his sophomore season the rest of the SEC will know about Jarrad Davis.