GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Fans wondering when they might see 5-star freshman defensive end Antonneous Clayton on the field for the Florida Gators will probably have to keep waiting.
Florida defensive line coach Chris Rumph made it clear Wednesday that Clayton, the highly-touted newcomer from Vienna, Ga., is down the depth chart at this point and has to prove himself in practice first.
“I just tell him to keep working. You never know, you never know. It’s a long season. It’s a long season,” Rumph said. “In the SEC, now, guys go down, so (you) don’t know. He’s going to determine that. We don’t determine who redshirts and who plays. They determine that Monday through Thursday.”
Clayton racked up 27 tackles for loss, 9 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries last year for Dooly County High School while earning the coveted 5-star rating from Rivals.com
Listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, he was the only 5-star recruit in Florida’s freshman class.
Junior wide receiver C.J. Worton is on track to make his season debut Saturday against Kentucky as he works his way back from a high-ankle sprain.
The surprise update from head coach Jim McElwain was that senior linebacker Daniel McMillian, who sustained a high-ankle sprain in the opener Saturday, also went through practice Wednesday and could play Saturday.
“You guys know, you kind of have to practice on Wednesday to play in the game on Saturday, so we had some guys pushing themselves and that’s a good thing,” McElwain said.
Meanwhile, he was less clear on how much freshmen receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells will play as they return from a combination of dual hamstring injuries and suspension.
“They’ve missed a lot of practice obviously and they need to get up to speed a little bit, but we’ll find out from there. But they should be ready to go if needed,” he said.
Offensive line responding?
Some of McElwain’s most pointed criticism after the season-opening 24-7 win over Massachusetts on Saturday was directed at the offensive line.
Specifically, he was not pleased with what he saw as a lack of energy between plays.
Speaking Wednesday, he was at least somewhat encouraged with how the unit has responded.
“I think they’ve worked hard this week. We’ll find out Saturday,” he said. “It’s another opportunity. I go back to that and that’s really what it is, it’s an opportunity to go out and prove to yourself that you’re capable to go out and perform at a high level. And that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Sophomore right guard Tyler Jordan spoke to reporters Tuesday and said the offensive linemen know the onus is on them to get the Gators going on that side of the ball.
“Obviously most of the offense runs through us, so like I said, we just have to get up there and finish every play. Once we do that, I guess, momentum shifts to our side and every body gets excited,” he said.
“… I came out there and I was excited to play. I was playing hard. We just got to on those long drives when we are getting to the 30-yard line, the 20-yard line, we just got to buckle down and work hard.”
Defensive line depth
Rumph said he’d like to be able to rotate 10 guys through the defensive line on Saturdays.
“I think I said it before, those guys have got one tank. There ain’t no second wind with those guys. There’s one tank. Once it’s empty, it’s empty,” he said. “So my job as a defensive line coach on Saturday, part of it is, to make sure that in fourth quarter, they still have something in the tank to go. The more guys we can get to rotate and play — and not just rotate to be rotating, but guys to go in and give us quality reps — the better off the team will be.”
The Gators rolled 11 defensive linemen into the opener Saturday.