Photo Credit: Alex Shepherd
It was only just a month or two ago that many didn't know whether or not Florida Gators pass rusher Brenton Cox Jr. would be ready to go for the start of the 2021 season.
Those rumors, of course, were unsubstantiated and subsequently debunked by other reports, first by AllGators.
While Cox did suffer a foot injury, he's played in all three games thus far this season and might have played his best game in a Florida Gators' uniform on Saturday against the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, the perfect time to hit his groove.
Cox was a terror for the Alabama offensive line all day, wreaking havoc on freshman quarterback Bryce Young, helped with the enthusiastic sold-out crowd, of course.
According to Pro Football Focus, Cox accounted for three pressures, one sack, three stops and two hurries against the Crimson Tide.
While that doesn't appear to be anything substantial, his play allowed for many other Florida defensive linemen to succeed on Saturday, drawing double teams and more attention towards his side. For Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, that's exactly what he wants to see in his star pass rusher.
“I thought that was his best game to date since he’s been here," Grantham said on Monday.
"He had really good pressure on the quarterback, he had some hurries, he got the one sack. He got the sack but you can credit the secondary for that from a coverage standpoint of taking away the route they wanted to throw. And then he continued to work.
"He worked hard to take a shot at the ball on that, he has to continue to do that so he gets a sack ball out. He’s worked really hard to be a complete linebacker."
A complete linebacker. Cox's work against both the run and the pass has allowed Florida's defense to elevate this season. All of his success, and future success, is likely to do the hard work and preparation Cox puts in, in between games.
"He busts his tail in practice to work his technique from a hands situation, as far as how he’s going to use his hands relative to who he’s playing," said Grantham.
"He’ll come in on Monday, he’ll study who he’s going to play and he’ll get a plan for the best way we need to attack this guy. That’s how he’ll rush in scout team periods. He goes as hard as he can and really works at it. I think his effort and preparation have been excellent."
While Cox hasn't always been noticed for Florida this season, it was by design. According to Grantham, the team didn't want to risk him during the first two games of the season, playing him for just a half against both Florida Atlantic and South Florida.
Playing the full 60 minutes against Alabama, Cox's energy was obvious, and his ability to affect the passer and be stout against the run was palpable.
Florida safety Rashad Torrence understands how important it is to have a pass rusher like Cox affecting the quarterback, making opportunities for the defensive backs in the process.
"B. Cox doesn’t really talk much, but when he does open his mouth it’s very powerful and having him on that edge and as a pass rusher is great on the back end because we know that he’s going to get where needs to be," Torrence said on Monday.
"That way, we can be where we need to be at the end of the day.”
Moving forward, don't be surprised to see Cox continue to improve as he works his way back to 100% after an offseason foot injury. The season is long, and he will have even more opportunities to showcase his talents in what will likely be his last collegiate season.
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