GAINESVILLE, Fla. — CeCe Jefferson lived up to his five-star billing in his first season at Florida.
The talented defensive end played in every game and finished with 29 tackles and 3.5 sacks, tied for second most on the team. He was named to the SEC Coaches All-Freshman Team.
Despite that recognition, Jefferson thinks he could have done better in 2015.
“I did pretty good,” Jefferson said of his freshman season after the SEC title game. “I definitely left some money out there, but it’s freshman mistakes. That’s my excuse. But I’ll get it all back next year.”
It didn’t take long for Jefferson to work his way into the D-line rotation last fall, and by the third game he was in the starting lineup. Even with that experience and playing time, Jefferson said he’s yet to find his groove.
“The scary thing is, I still don’t feel like I’ve hit it,” he said. “I feel like there’s so much I still need to know, so much I still need to learn. When I finally hit it, it’s safe to say that will be a scary moment. I can’t wait.”
Jefferson said the highlight of his freshman year wasn’t his personal success, but being able soak up game from the upperclassmen at his position.
“To be honest, my high point for this season was just learning from Jon Bullard, Bryan Cox Jr. and Caleb Brantley,” Jefferson said. “Just playing with those guys, that’s going to take my game to the next level.
“They’re all film junkies. Coming out of high school, I wasn’t a film junkie. So getting to college and watching film, that’s all new to me. So that’s definitely going to elevate my game.”
During the season, Florida defensive line coach Chris Rumph was impressed with Jefferson’s willingness to learn and be coachable. He doesn’t see that with most high-profile recruits.
“CeCe doesn’t look at himself as a five star,” Rumph said. “He didn’t come in with that air about him, he just comes in and works. The thing I like about him is he’s always constantly talking to Bullard, he’s talking to Cox, he’s talking to these older guys and they’re telling him things.
“When I’m jumping his butt, or I’m screaming — I don’t scream, but when I’m talking to him real nice — these other guys will come and say, ‘This is what coach is trying to say, this is what’s going on, this is what he means.’ He’s learning how to be a football player. He has the talent.”
The Gators jumped out to a 10-1 record and won the SEC East in Jim McElwain’s first year, but the season ended with a disappointing three-game skid as the offense struggled down the stretch.
Jefferson is confident that side of the ball will turn things around in 2016.
“The offense will get it together,” he said. “I got 100 percent belief in those guys and they’ll get it together next season. I’m telling you, it’s going to be a whole different ball club. Coach Mac is a great coach and what he has in store is genius. So we’ll get it back on track.”