TAMPA, Fla. – Demetris Harris and Brad Cecil are from Jacksonville and both grew up rooting for the Gators.
Harris rattled off the names of Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin in recalling Florida’s national championship seasons of 2006 and 2008.
“Even when we played them last year, it was like a surreal moment for me,” said the graduate student and left guard, referencing last season’s 42-20 loss to UF at Raymond James Stadium. “But going into the Swamp at nighttime, you can’t ask for a better opportunity.”
That opportunity will arrive Saturday night (7:30, SECN) in USF’s third meeting with the Gators and second in Gainesville.
Cecil, the Bulls’ center and, like Harris, a graduate student, started to acquire some idea about college football when he was six. That meant, like his fellow offensive lineman, absorbing all he could about Tebow and the Gators.
“I was a Florida fan when I was growing up and it is cool to get to play them now,” he said.
Cecil added one key detail, while smiling: “But I am a Bulls fan now.”
Jatorian Hansford spent the past four seasons at Missouri before transferring to USF. With his Tigers residing in the SEC East, the defensive end faced the Gators four times. He is 2-2 against UF and his first victory (38-17) was in the Swamp in 2018 as a freshman. Last season, Mizzou won in overtime in Columbia, 24-23, and Hansford recorded his first career sack in the fourth quarter.
“It was an amazing experience for me and something I will never forget,” he said.
Hansford recorded his second career sack against Howard last week. The Georgia native is excited to go up against Florida for a fifth and final time, and finish 3-2.
“It was my dream school,” he said. “I am so looking forward to play this game. I have been thinking about this game since I got here.”
Scott impressed with Gators’ defense, Richardson
Coach Jeff Scott could not say enough good things about UF’s defensive front during his weekly press conference Tuesday.
“Their defensive line, in my opinion is elite,” said the third-year coach, who is 1-19 against FBS opponents at USF. “I believe this will be the best d-line we play in the two-and-a-half years that I have been here. They are really, really good up front.”
The Gators were really, really good offensively during a 42-20 win in Tampa last September 11. In a game that was not as close as the final score indicated, UF rolled up 666 yards. Quarterback Anthony Richardson, who shared time that afternoon with the since-departed Emory Jones, totaled 267 yards and three touchdowns despite throwing only three passes and rushing only four times. The only thing that slowed him was that he reaggravated a hamstring injury during an 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
In a season-opening win against Utah, Richardson totaled 274 yards, including rushing for 106 and three scores. Kentucky, though, limited the Gainesville native to 147 total yards (four on the ground) in last week’s loss.
“We saw him up close and personal last year in our game,” said Scott.
“It is difficult when playing a dual-threat guy who can throw. He has an incredibly strong arm and he has wideouts that can stretch the field. Also, if it is not there, he can take off on a 50-yard touchdown run just like that.”
Scott, Napier good friends on opposite sidelines
Scott is very familiar with Florida’ first-year coach, Billy Napier. The two overlapped for three seasons as assistants at Clemson under Tommy Bowden and Dabo Swinney. The final two years they were together, 2009 and 2010, Napier was the offensive coordinator with Scott serving as receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.
After Clemson completed a 6-7 season in 2010 by losing to USF in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, Napier was let go and Scott was elevated to be Swinney’s OC. They have since remained good friends and often touch base.
“He is more than just a friend, but a resource in the profession,” said Scott, 41.
Scott is impressed with how hard the 43-year-old Napier has worked in getting to this point.
“I think he is going to be very successful at Florida because he is very process-oriented,” he said. “He has kept every handout and every note from every meeting. He is meticulous and I am not surprised to see that he has worked his way up to one of the best jobs in the country.”
USF vs Gators, SEC
Bulls vs Gators: 0-2, 42-20 in 2021, and 38-14 in 2010.
Bulls vs SEC: 2-6 (Wins: at Auburn, 26-23 OT, 2017 and South Carolina, 46-39 OT, 2016 Birmingham Bowl.)