GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Eyebrows raised when Florida’s CeCe Jefferson revealed he would play defensive tackle in 2016.
Jefferson slimmed down to 258 pounds in 2015, when he made the All-SEC Freshman team as an end. But the Gators needed more bodies inside, so Jefferson made the switch in the spring.
He currently looks too light to play the position, but UF defensive line coach Chris Rumph said Jefferson’s size isn’t an issue.
“He looks like me — lean. Thin in the waist, cut in the face,” Rumph said. “The thing about CeCe is this joker is cockstrong. He’s country strong. He is country strong. He looks like a smaller guy, but he is strong. He’s strong.”
Apparently his strength can’t be emphasized enough. But Rumph said the Gators had several big bodies inside and wanted to add an athletic rusher to the mix.
He envisions Jefferson having the same success as Jonathan Bullard, also a former 5-star recruit who switched from end to tackle at Florida.
“You look at Bullard when he was out on the edge, he just looked like a guy,” Rumph said of Bullard, now a rookie with the Chicago Bears. “But when he went inside, it created some problems and he was able to do some things he did the past year. … So we just wanted to get us a change-up inside (with Jefferson).”
Jefferson will still play end in some personnel packages, but he hopes to get up to 280 pounds this year. He has embraced the move to Bullard’s old position (3-technique), where he now plays behind Caleb Brantley.
“It’s something the team needed and something I didn’t mind doing,” Jefferson said. “Sometimes you have to make sacrifices and I love these guys enough make that sacrifice.
“I got to watch the best last year and I get to watch the best this year first-hand. So that definitely makes it a lot easier for me watching those guys.”
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.