GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Fans were puzzled early in the season when 5-star freshman defensive end Antonneous Clayton wasn’t seeing any playing time for Florida.
For that matter, Gators defensive line coach Chris Rumph was confused a bit a well — for a different reason.
“Man, this guy, boy I’ll tell you what. When he first got here and I saw him out there, I said, ‘Wow.’ I said, ‘Man, Rumph, you sure missed out on that one.’ He was bad. I mean he was bad, bad, bad, bad, but then all of a sudden you just saw him, he wants it so bad,” Rumph said Wednesday. “He’s just so eager and he’s just great to be around. He’s just like right there on your hip. I mean, you’re talking to somebody else and you turn around and he’s right there trying to absorb everything.”
Clayton, listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, was rated a 5-star recruit out of Dooly County High School in Vienna, Ga., by Rivals.com, and according to the 247Sports composite he was the 26th-best prospect in the country overall and ranked No. 2 among weak-side defensive ends in his class.
Given the hype that accompanied his arrival, it was indeed a bit of a surprise that he didn’t play at all the first four games while other true freshmen on the roster were making an impact.
Clayton’s arrow is again pointing up, though.
Clayton made his debut in Week 5 at Vanderbilt, recovering a fumble in the fourth quarter, and against Missouri he tallied two quarterback hurries and two tackles.
“I think he’s starting to settle down and you know, I’m from a small town and (at) Dooly County, they just said, ‘Hey, go get the man with the football.’ No technique. Just run and go get him,” Rumph said. “And that was some of the things we liked when we saw it on film, but probably to be honest, early on I think he probably would have caught on quicker, but I think it was some of that small-town blues or whatever. But now, he’s not affected by — and this is not a big city — but I don’t think he’s affected by the big city and stuff like that. He’s learning. He’s getting better every day, actually.”