In a phone call with the South Florida media on Monday, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp had nothing but extremely positive things to say about the three Gators selected by the Miami Dolphins on Saturday on the third day of the 2013 NFL Draft.
“They got three great people, three great guys in the locker room,” he said. “Three really good, solid people and really good football players.”
The Dolphins started off the day by drafting linebacker Jelani Jenkins in the fourth round with the No. 104 overall pick. Miami sees Jenkins as a player who can contribute immediately on passing downs, and Muschamp agreed with that concept.
“Jelani Jenkins has got a huge upside as a player. He’s an every-down linebacker,” Muschamp said. “He’s an immediate contributor on special teams. But the guy can really run and play in space. He’s improved his physicality, playing blocks in the core. But he can play in every down, and that to me, especially the way the NFL is moving right now, as far as becoming a little bit more of a spread league, you got to have guys that are able to play in the box in two-back situations and have people spread you out, be able to play every down. And he can do that. He’s extremely intelligent, [a] hard worker and [has] absolutely no issues.”
Muschamp also explained that Dolphins linebackers coach George Edwards, who is back with the franchise after leaving in 2010 to take over as Florida’s defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer before leaving less than two months later to become defensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills, is excited about Jenkins. Edwards coached under Muschamp when he was defensive coordinator in Miami under Nick Saban.
Just one round later, the Dolphins doubled up on Gators with their first selection, at No. 164 overall, used to choose running back Mike Gillislee.
Muschamp thinks Miami got a steal in the first Florida running back since 2004 to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season.
“Mike Gillislee, probably nowhere on the radar this time last year. A guy that just brings his lunch pail to work every day,” said Muschamp while describing the player. “Extremely hard worker, has got good lateral quickness, can get vertical in the hole quick, tough, hard-nosed, can play every down because he can protect on third down, catches the ball well. He’s smart, and again, no issues.”
Muschamp believes that Gillislee’s versatility and blocking ability will get him on the field early and often for the Dolphins.
“He’s got really good lower body flexibility and good punch and power on all blocks. He’s a guy that, there’s no question he’ll be ready to go there early,” he said. “Mike’s going to be a dependable guy. He’s going to be a guy you’re not going to worry about protection, you’re not going to worry about him going into the game. And he’s certainly going to be a valuable member of special teams.”
Miami concluded its run on Florida players by selecting kicker Caleb Sturgis just two picks later at No. 166 overall. He will compete for the starting job immediately.
“Caleb Sturgis I the best kicker I’ve ever been around,” Muschamp said. “When you hit the 37- or 38-yard line, depending on weather, you’re in range. So he’s accurate, got a strong leg, and an extremely hard worker. Again, no issues.”
Asked to clarify his “best kicker” comment about Sturgis and whether or not that includes his time as a NFL assistant coach, Muschamp expanded on his praise.
“I’ve just never had [as high of] a confidence level in a young man, when he steps on the field, that he’s going to be that productive for your football team. The confidence level I’ve had in him I’ve never had in another kicker,” he said.
Muschamp concluded his call by praising the Dolphins’ organization and general manager Jeff Ireland, who he said he has “tremendous respect for” as someone who does a good job in the scouting process. He also explained what he had to say to Jenkins, Gillislee and Sturgis after they were drafted on Saturday.
“I just told them they’re going to a great organization, an organization that is going to do everything they can do to be successful,” Muschamp said. “It’s an occupation, it’s not a hobby. It’s not just something you’re doing in college. I think all three will adjust well because all three are very intelligent and they’re mature guys. Generally the more mature players adjust well and translate well to the National Football League.”