Could Florida’s CeCe Jefferson Breakout in 2018?

Coming out of high school CeCe Jefferson was a highly touted prospect who was a consensus 5 Star prospect and the 20th overall prospect and the 2nd rated defensive end in the entire country. Jefferson made an immediate impact for the Gators as he’s been a regular rotational player as a freshman before finally getting a regular starting role as a junior. Jefferson’s stats haven’t be great with only 9.5 sacks in three years, but with a new coaching staff now coming in Gainesville this could mean that Jefferson could be poised for a breakout year in 2018.

Why CeCe Jefferson could breakout in 2018

With Dan Mullen taking over the Florida Gators he brings with him defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and his aggressive 3-4 defense. There are basically two different types of 3-4 defenses. The one most associate is what Nick Saban runs that utilizes big defensive lines that take on blockers playing the gaps on both sides of them. Todd Granthan developed his defense from his time with Wade Phillips which tends to use smaller and more athletic defenders who attack up field looking to penetrate. CeCe Jefferson is at his best when he uses his burst and quickness off the snap to disrupt. He is a perfect fit for this defense.

CeCe Jefferson as a Pass Rusher

In Grantham’s 3-4 he’ll play an outside rush linebacker role that will see him lining up a bit more outside at the seven technique compared to the 5 technique he played previously in the Gators four man fronts. This should only help Jefferson rush off the edge better as playing too close to the tackle cause him to get engulfed too often while rushing from better angles and more space will allow him to use his quickness and counter move the tackle. Jefferson does have success rushing inside stunting and slanting to his left, so don’t be surprised if Grantham moves him around a bit.

CeCe Jefferson as a Run Defender

Stopping the run has been one of Jefferson’s strong suits as he’s shown the ability to penetrate and run down the ball carrier. That won’t change in the Gators new 3-4 defense as he’ll be attacking on a regular basis. The big difference is he’ll be match up more on the tackle on the outside where he is able to set a strong edge and then react to the ball. Too often lining up on the tackle he was overwhelmed by their size and even got help from the guard.

 

Shoulder Injury

The big concern about Jefferson is he hurt his shoulder during this past Spring which caused him to get “significant surgery” to repair it. According to the Gainsville Sun he is suppose to be back by the start of the regular season. Not being ready to go for Fall Camp or even the first game could cause Jefferson time to get fully integrated and have him playing catch up the rest of the season.

 

Outlook

At 6’1 242lb it was no surprise that Jefferson struggled at times playing in short quarters. Playing with more space and better pass rushing angles should only help. Jefferson made the right choice not declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft. In Todd Grantham’s first year at Mississippi State he dramatically improved their defensive including their sack total to 36 for the season. That included outside linebacker Montez Sweat accumulating 10.5. If he can get Jefferson to that level, then there is no reason that Jefferson isn’t considered a Day 2 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, as long as he’s 100% from his shoulder surgery.

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