Cox finds best fit at Florida, says UGA game will be 'personal'
He's played just twice as a Gator, but Brenton Cox Jr. has already made his mark on Florida’s defense.
The former five-star recruit has been in on a sack in both games, and he’s tied for the team high in sacks (1.5) and tackles for loss (3.0). Cox starts at defensive end and has also lined up at BUCK in Todd Grantham’s scheme.
“I think it's an interesting defense,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people coming from everywhere, I think it opens up for me to get more sacks since we've got a lot of pressure coming. So, I love it. I love the defense.”
Cox is also loving Florida, where he transferred last August after spending his freshman year at Georgia. He actually had interest in the Gators as a recruit, but decided to sign with the in-state Bulldogs.
“I kind of feel like I made the best decision to come here,” Cox said of his transfer to UF, which caused him to sit out last season. “The hardest part was definitely not being able to play. Sitting on the sideline was definitely hard for me because I've never done that before.
“But some things just don't work out the way we planned. I'm just ready to go now. I'm able to play this year, so that's what I'm looking at. I’m worried about next week.”
Though his focus is on Texas A&M, Cox admits he’s looking forward to the Florida-Georgia game on Nov. 7.
“It’ll definitely be personal,” he said. “I just can't wait to play them in Jacksonville. Can't wait to get the W.”
Cox was able to get the No. 1 jersey, which he wore at UGA, before ever playing a down for the Gators. He coveted the number after receiving No. 6 upon his arrival, and Grantham and UF coach Dan Mullen said he earned it with his work ethic and “all-in investment” over the past year.
“It’s been a whole year, so I had a whole year just to do nothing but grind,” Cox said. “So I've been working very hard over the offseason that I couldn't play. I definitely felt like I deserved No. 1 and I wanted to pick up where I left off at. I just wanted to start the season off right.”
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound defender had an impact in the opener at Ole Miss, registering eight tackles, one sack, 2.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup that Gervon Dexter intercepted. It was Cox’s first time playing since the Sugar Bowl to conclude the 2018 season.
“It's been great, just being out there with the guys again,” he said. “Basically, just pass rushing in a real game, so it’s been a great experience for me. I know I sat out the year, so I'm just happy to be back.”
He made five tackles last Saturday and sacked South Carolina quarterback Colin Hill on first-and-goal with defensive end Andrew Chatfield. Grantham said Cox has only scratched the surface of his full potential.
“Brenton is a talented guy that made some plays. I think there’s more in the tank,” Grantham said. “We’ve just got to continue to develop the habits that allow him to make plays. The guy really wants to be a good player. The guy takes notes, he studies, he asks questions.
“As he continues to understand how we want him to play, the system and all that, he’ll get better. He’ll make plays. I thought he made some good plays, but I think there’s still more in the tank we can get that we need to continue to develop.”
Cox gets the luxury of working with defensive line coach David Turner and Grantham at the Buck position. He’s been soaking up knowledge from both assistants, who have produced several NFL pass rushers.
“It’s a blessing, to be honest. Before this, I didn't know half of the stuff that I know now,” Cox said of learning from Grantham and Turner. “It’s good, switching back and forth. Sometimes I go down there with (the D-line) and work on some more techniques and rushes with them. But it's mostly Coach Grantham.”
Cox also credited Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter for helping him get acclimated, as well as former Gators Jabari Greenard and Jabari Zuniga. He took “basically everything” from their game.
“I watched them in and out,” Cox said. “Watching Greenard play BUCK and Zuniga play end on the same field, it's basically what I'm playing. I'm trying to be as versatile as them. So every move they were doing I would try to do right after them.
“Basically just a learning experience having them both here … even Zach. Just picking his brain, learning what he does, what he doesn't like to do, what’s not good, what is good. Basically just learning every day.”