Florida defensive lineman Antonneous Clayton had four solo tackles, including a sack, in Friday's Orange and Blue Debut at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]
UF football: Antonneous Clayton 'going to turn heads'
Antonneous Clayton isn’t ready to give himself any credit.
Despite making several highlight-reel plays in Friday’s Orange and Blue Debut at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the rising sophomore defensive end doesn’t believe he’s “scratched the surface” of his potential.
“I think I still have a long way to go,” Clayton said. “The game is a whole lot slower.”
As an 18-year-old freshman, Clayton appeared in five games and recorded three tackles, three quarterback hurries and notably recovered a fumble in Florida’s 13-6 win over Vanderbilt last season.
Clayton said when he arrived in Gainesville prior to last season, his natural athleticism alone was enough to earn him early playing time for the Gators.
And no play in Friday’s game was more emblematic of Clayton’s athletic potential than his “sack” on Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks in the first half.
Clayton exploded into the backfield to disrupt the play, displaying the pure athleticism that warranted an eventual five-star rating coming out of Dooly County (Ga.).
“When I first got here, things were moving fast. I was an athlete and I was using my athleticism to keep in the speed of play, but (now I’m) actually breaking down the play in the meeting room, the proper technique of the play, where to be at the right time,” said Clayton, who finished the scrimmage with four solo tackles. “That happened a lot tonight.”
With the conclusion of spring practice, the onus will fall on the players to continue training and improving heading into fall camp. Rather than identify a specific area of improvement, Clayton said, he plans on using the coming months to polish his all-around craft and increase his knowledge of the position.
“I had a pretty good spring, but I really think I still have awhile to go learning the plays and just playing the proper technique,” Clayton said. “I didn’t really do anything my freshman year, I was kind of a late bloomer. And I really still haven’t done anything yet, it’s just a spring game.
“But everyone man, the defense, the corners, safeties, defensive lineman. We’re really going to be good this year. That’s what a lot of people don’t understand.”
Clayton was one of the highest-rated prospects in UF’s 2016 recruiting class, but he showed up last summer weighing only about 215 pounds and was an undersized end his freshman season.
Since then, he’s put in plenty of work in the weight room and at the training table and is now weighing about 250 pounds, a more suitable weight for his position.
“Coming in at 215 I wasn’t that SEC body that I wanted to have,” Clayton said. “I was highly ranked but when I got here those stars didn’t mean anything. I still had a huge learning curve. I had to get up. Right now, I’m 250. My teammates coach me up, my coaches still coach me up. I’m still learning as of right now. I’m just a sophomore. It’s going to be a pretty good two years after this season. I’m looking forward to it.
“I’m way more comfortable now. I know the guys, their personalities, the coaching staff. They’re really doing a good job coaching me. Just overall they just took me in as one of their own. That really made me feel at home. Having that confidence in me just makes me better overall, comfortable playing here and just being here in general.”
Fellow sophomore defensive end Cece Jefferson said Clayton is primed to have a breakout season in 2017.
“I’ve seen that guy from the time he got here, he’s just been dedicated to putting on weight,” Jefferson said. “That’s something that he wanted to do. You can definitely see a change for the better for him. He’s going to turn heads this year.
“You watch him practice? He’s a high-energy guy, he’s going to get off the ball. I know he can come in and do some damage.”
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