GAINESVILLE -- Gators co-defensive coordinator and linebackers assistant Randy Shannon recently met with reporters and discussed replacing Florida’s leading tackler the last two seasons (Antonio Morrison), Jarrad Davis’ development into a star and what he expects from Alex Anzalone next season. The former Miami Hurricanes alum and head coach also identified exactly where linebackers need to improve and how Miami Norland linebacker Rayshad Jackson fits into the mix.
What exactly do you lose with Morrison off to the NFL?
"A senior who played a lot. But it's time for other guys to step up. Daniel McMillian played a lot last year for us, there's opportunity for him to come up.”
Are you looking for Anzalone to fill that leadership void?
“Tonio' [brought] a lot to the table. He's very energetic. We always say Tone' gets guys going. He's going to shoot guys straight. Players understood if Tone' say something to you and he didn't think it was right, it wasn't right. So you lose that aspect, but then you're gaining things with Anzalone coming back, because Anzalone played a lot last year in the early part of the season. But he's that same type of guy. … Anzalone's been practicing a little bit non-contact, but he's been going through the seven-on-seven drills, been going over the things where it's not banging. So that's where a lot of leadership comes back also.”
What makes Davis a such a productive player?
“He’s competitive like Jon Vilma was. Vilma, you couldn’t, if you played cards he’d play all night until he beat you. That’s how Jarrad is: He’ll never quit. He’s going to have to win. If you want to keep competing at dominos or a game you’re gonna be up all night with it until you let him win. Very competitive in that aspect, he takes a lot of pride in himself. Athletically he has like Jon Beason-ness, the speed and the power and stuff like that and then the knowledge like Ray [Lewis] was. He has the game. He knows what to do. He knows how to get the guys lined up, and he knows how to protect certain guys on the defense with a call or something like that.”
As a whole, where do the linebackers need to improve the most?
“Just got to get better as a unit with communicating. That’s one that we’re going to continue to stress, is communication. We always have a saying, 'If we’re all wrong, then that means we’re all right.' We all on the same defensive call, the wrong defense, that means we’re going to execute it. When you’ve got guys playing two different defenses, bad things happen. So the communication factor, we want to be on point with that.”
How you do see Jackson fitting into the mix?
“He's coming along. It’s still a learning process. But like anything, he’s going to get better if he just keeps the reps. The way we practice, Rayshad’s probably averaging about 35-40 snaps in practice, so he’s getting opportunities to get better.”
Has McMillian made a jump this offseason?
“We moved him. We moved him to strong-side linebacker. He’s doing well, phenomenal. Sometimes the secondary, it’s not, maybe have an angle of something like that. We moved him at the nickel position, we’ve played him at outside linebacker, the strong-side position. He’s adapted. He’s done well at it. We’re kind of excited about the progress, the way he’s learning. Great things ahead for us and for him, because him learning the weak-side and now he’s able to play the strong-side, now we gain two positions out of one. That’s how you build depth.”
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