Florida standout defensive lineman Chris McClellan talked to the media Tuesday about his progress, Florida football and the 2023 defensive line.
McClellan, a former 4-star recruit, had a standout freshman season in 2022. He finished with 23 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in 13 games. His presence in the middle of the line was vital to Florida’s defensive success. The team will need him to be even better in year two as Florida faces a daunting schedule in the fall.
He said he has gotten more explosive, stronger and faster in his second year under Billy Napier and the Florida staff.
The difference between his ability a year ago shows in the weight room. McClellan says he can bench 425 pounds and added that he’s a 600-pound squatter. In addition to his physical progress, he has greatly improved his diet and sleep schedule as his second season approaches.
It’s not just him who’s grown, however. He says the entire team looks faster, stronger and is moving naturally now that the players know what to expect under Napier in year two.
While the Gators’ head coach has remained the same, Florida hired a new defensive coordinator in Austin Armstrong. Armstrong arrives at Florida after coaching at Georgia, Louisiana, Southern Miss and Alabama. In his time as defensive coordinator at Southern Miss, the Golden Eagles ranked in the Top 10 in the FBS in forced turnovers and red zone defense. He coaches an exciting and aggressive brand of defense, something that Florida fans can look forward to after watching the Gators finish 88th in points conceded per game last season. McClelland spoke positively about the new defense and how it looks.
McClellan discussed three particular players he’ll likely be sharing the field with this year. He praised the traits of freshman Kelby Collins, transfer Cam Jackson and returnee Desmond Watson.
“Kelby is a hard player,” he said. “He’s a very smart player at a young age.”
“Great rusher,” McClellan said of Jackson. “Eager to learn, real humble kid, so I respect that about him.”
He joked about Jackson’s athleticism, saying he moves like a receiver with his 6-foot-7 inch, 355 Ib frame.
Watson, known affectionately as “Big Des” amongst Florida fans, was also praised by McClellan.
“You’re going to see a hard worker and a playmaker and one of the smartest players on the field,” he said of his fellow interior lineman.
McClellan hails from Owasso, Oklahoma, and he could be playing against his state’s flagship university in the coming years. Oklahoma announced its move to the SEC in 2021, and the Sooners and the Texas Longhorns will add even more star power to an already stacked conference beginning in 2024. McClellan relishes the opportunity to face off against the Sooners whenever the two are eventually scheduled to play.