Serving a two-game suspension for violating the NCAA’s preferential treatment rules “including receiving $2,500 cash over several months from an individual not associated with the university,” Florida Gators defensive lineman is likely ready and raring to go for his first game action of the 2011 season on Saturday against the Tennessee Volunteers.
Though the situation was obviously difficult for the player, his teammates, the coaching staff and the university as a whole appear to have had his back – especially if you consider the statements from athletic director Jeremy Foley and head coach Will Muschamp as testimony to that fact.
For the first time since he was suspended, Floyd’s teammates had the opportunity to open up about their brother in arms. Three defensive players spoke with the media on Monday and all explained how pumped up they were for him to return.
Redshirt junior sam linebacker Lerentee McCray said Floyd’s return provides some additional opportunities for the defense to succeed against a tough Southeastern Conference opponent in Tennessee.
“Getting Sharrif Floyd back does a lot for our team. It’s motivation, just bringing our brothers along, getting guys back in the rotation so we can have fresh bodies,” he said. “It gives us a real big boost going into a SEC game.
“Sharrif brings size, speed, athleticism – he just brings a lot to that position that you can’t normally get from a guy my size or somebody my stature. He’s a big guy – fast, quick, powerful – he’s a great guy who can play defensive end or defensive tackle, so he brings a lot to the position.”
McCray said he was proud of how Floyd dealt with the NCAA investigation and sitting out the first two games of the season. He also explained how Floyd was still able to contribute to the team from the sidelines.
“I think he handled it very well. I didn’t see him be down on himself very much,” McCray said. “He just watched the game from the sideline and gave us tips and things that we could do better. He just broke down the opponent from the sideline during the game, told us what they were doing and things that could help us out.”
Redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins believes Floyd’s character will also be a big help to a young team looking for as much leadership as possible each game.
“Sharrif has amazing talents,” he said. “He is a great person, great player, great leader and I’m excited to have him back. I’m looking forward to it. He has a great pass rush ability. With him on the field, it makes everybody’s job a lot easier.”
Unlike the rest of his teammates, Floyd will get his first taste of game action this year against one of Florida’s biggest rivals. If he plays as well as his teammates and coaches expect him to from the get-go, Floyd could be a major boost to a Gators defense that is looking to improve in the pass rush in order to help out a very young secondary.