I don’t want to discuss the idea that we might not have Gator football this season okay?. Let’s get that out of the way first. But i want to take the time to introduce you to our Gator rookies entering the NFL this season, and talk a little about each of their circumstances as the season approaches. So we’ll start at the top this week! A little CJ Henderson action. Disclaimer. These are not scouting reports!!
What i’ve learnt since adopting college football and particularly the Gators, is the crazy sense of pride you get when one of the guys you’ve supported and watched in college gets drafted, and has his shot at the league. There’s a slight sadness to it, when the realisation hits that they won’t be a Gator anymore, and the emotions start flying when the traditional ‘Thank you Gator Nation’ farewell messages start coming out from the players.
I’ve been a Gator fan for 5 years now, and last year got to the stadium in time for the infamous Gator walk. The Gator walk is essentially the players heading into the stadium before a game, and Gator fans line the pathway into the school for it. One of the most surreal experiences of my life, the whole thing was crazy. You stand in anticipation and then all of a sudden in a flurry that lasts around 3 minutes, all the coaches and players you watch every week walk right by shaking hands, right in front of your face. A strong tradition across many colleges, but i’ll never forget my first experience of it first hand.
As a fan in the UK, i’ve done pretty well to get to as many games as I can (and my bank account will let me). Over the last few years i’ve introduced the Gators to my closest friends, and they too have adopted Florida Gator football. I love that. On Saturdays we can be allies, and on Sundays we go back to being rivals.
The Gators are coming off of a strong 11-2 season, and under Coach Dan Mullen, the man himself, the future looks bright for Florida football. We had a good group of players drafted this year, so let’s have a look into the first one of our Gator rookies today. We’ll feature a new player or two each week, so make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter! You can find the link at the bottom of this post.
CJ Henderson (CB), Jacksonville. Round 1 Pick 9.
OKAY CJ, TOP 10 IS IT?! Christopher ‘CJ Henderson was taken 9th overall and only the second corner drafted behind Jeff Okudah. Considering CJ actually had a down year in his final season, to still find himself in the top 10, in a stacked cornerback draft, is pretty damn good. He did miss a couple of games last season, so maybe he was battling a few niggles and aches, but the talent he’s got is crazy.
CJ Henderson stands at 6″1, 204 pounds, and ran a 4.39 40 time at the combine. He showed out at the combine and impressed. Check it out:
At Florida, the strength and conditioning coach is an absolute legend. He couldn’t be more appropriately named. Mr Nick Savage transforms freshman high schoolers into animals at Florida, and CJ is no different. Pushing out 20 reps on the bench, the hard work the Gator players put into their workouts showed. Savage is incredibly committed to our players, and the energy he brings to the Florida weight room and our players is priceless.
So CJ heads to Jacksonville as they begin to rebuild, and will find himself playing week 1 i’m sure. Not so long ago the Jags might have had a case for the best cornerback duo in the league, and now both Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye will be suiting up for other teams on Sundays. The Jags now rely on DJ Hayden and 2018 undrafted free agent Tre Herndon, who earned his way into the starting line up following Ramsey’s departure.
So CJ is going to see himself thrown in the deep end and it’ll be interesting to see how the Jags decide to use him. Maybe he’ll spend some time in the slot, considering he has great speed and hip movement, he could manage it. But i’d prefer to see him matching up against the best of the best and playing on the outside. Not to mention also spending a vast majority of time on the field considering the Jags offence looks horrible this season. I’m not a believer in Gardner Minshew as a starting calibre quarterback, great character, doesn’t have the talent to run the show.
The AFC South has some speed at the receiver position and i’m looking forward to seeing CJ put his athleticism to use at the next level. Match ups like TY Hilton in Indy & Will Fuller of the Texans will certainly be one to keep an eye on. It’s a shame Deandre Hopkins got traded out of the division, i’d have liked to see that match up twice a season. Receivers be aware, even Ocho had to admit it. Ochocinco called out Okudah and CJ after they were drafted saying he wanted the smoke while they prepared for camp. He assured them he’d go half speed, to which CJ replied ‘Don’t go half speed old man’. Ocho got his wish and the two got together for some workouts:
CJ’s fast, and technically incredibly sound. His tackling and physicality in the run game would be the focus of improvement but outside of that, there’s a reason CJ is a top 10 pick. I hope he adjusts quickly, and all going to plan he most definitely has everything he needs to become a top corner in the NFL. Which of course, as a Gator fan, i’ll be keen to see.
I’ll drop his highlights in here, including one of my personal favourites, when you see him track down Austin Pope of Tennessee, who proceeds to fumble the ball out of the end zone. Classic Tennessee. You can see him continuously using his speed in these clips, and he’s not giving you any easy catches any time soon. There’s a little bit of everything in here. CJ ended his college career with 4 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, and 6 interceptions, including the beauty he took back to the house against Michigan.
I don’t think anybody is expecting the Jags to win many games this season, and I’ve actually got them as the most likely landing spot for Trevor Lawrence, considering they have a lot of holes to fill and auctioned off a lot of their talent in the off season. So not too much pressure on getting it right immediately, and plenty of playing time, should mean good things for CJ individually.
He likes to talk, and he’s going to let you know if he’s locking you up. I like that about him. He’s got a bit of Richard Sherman about him in that sense, and we all know i love me some Richard. I hope CJ Henderson smashes it in Jax, and gets traded to the Dolphins in two years. Lush.
Drop back in next week and we’ll get into second round pick Van Jefferson, and why I really like him as an NFL prospect. Plus his emotionally elating draft video!
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