GAINESVILLE, Fla. — CeCe Jefferson apparently meant what he said on National Signing Day.
When Jefferson decided to sign with UF in February, he made the announcement live on ESPN.
ESPN’s Rece Davis asked: "Why Florida?"
"I feel at home there. I fit into the defense they are trying to bring," said Jefferson, adding that having offensive lineman Martez Ivey as a teammate didn’t hurt, either. "From day one, he was a guy I wanted to go to college with. That will be some great competition at practice every day. That’s pretty much why."
Six months later first-year Gators coach Jim McElwain is thankful Jefferson landed at Florida rather than somewhere else.
Jefferson has a presence about him that is difficult to ignore on the practice field.
"He’s one of the young guys doing a heckuva job," McElwain said this week. "He shows up."
A highly recruited pass rusher out of Baker County (Fla.) High, Jefferson offers a combination of size (6-1, 275) and speed. Jefferson missed much of his senior season due to a shoulder injury but as a prep junior in 2013, he had 17 ½ sacks.
Florida safety Keanu Neal looks at Jefferson as a player who could help the Gators immediately.
While Florida’s defensive line has talent, the Gators lost their top pass rusher from last season in Dante Fowler Jr.
"He’s showing grit," Neal said. "He’s showing work. He’s showing that he can make plays."
The Gators have Jonathan Bullard, Bryan Cox Jr. and Alex McCalister returning at defensive end, but with the way Jefferson has introduced himself to his new teammates, don’t be surprised to see him crack the rotation.
And yes, he has already battled Ivey some in practice.
"He’ a guy that can make an impact," McElwain said. "He’s a guy that’s eager to learn and jumped right in on everything we are doing."