For Florida Gators freshman defensive tackle Gervon Dexter, development is key, and part of the lengthy changes he's has to make after being one of the most dominating defensive linemen in the country during his recruitment over the past few years.
Dexter, a 6-foot-6, 310-pound giant was a late bloomer. Not truly playing football until his sophomore year of high school, and even then actually playing through his two final years at the prep level, he's had to rely heavily on his raw talent, of which he has plenty of.
"Probably, me playing, is just my appearance. You don't see many 6-6, 310-pound defensive linemen, freshmen. So I would say that kind of helped me. And then the biggest transition for me has been, probably, the offensive line," Dexter told the media in his first media availability of the season on Tuesday.
"In high school, you don't see the size of the offensive linemen in high school, so, that's probably been the biggest thing. Just the bigger offensive linemen, the size of the offensive line has been the biggest thing."
Now, Dexter has to go up against players who are - generally - his size, not able to rely on simply being bigger than the man in front of him to make way through an offensive line. In high school, Dexter posted staggering numbers. Over his final two years at the prep level, Dexter accumulated 141 solo tackles, including 103 during his senior season.
Dexter's dominance included a staggering 35 tackles-for-loss and 17 sacks.
Those type of numbers are not normal for most players at any level of football, however, it's not too surprising the numbers haven't exactly translated right away in the young player's collegiate career. Dexter admits, he needs to get a better grasp of technique and understanding his gaps.
"Coming in I had a lot of bad technique, and still do have bad technique," Dexter said candidly when asked what the biggest adjustment was for him coming in at the collegiate level. "So, just learning technique was been a good thing, big thing I need to work on and stuff like that."
Two players that have been incredibly influential in his development thus far this season have been defensive linemen, Kyree Campbell and Zachary Carter. Both players are currently seniors on the Gators' defensive line and have been two of the best defensive linemen in the SEC thus far this season.
Dexter says both players have helped him tremendously in different ways, both have called Dexter to help him in preparation, with Campbell even calling him while the senior defensive lineman was away from the team for the first few weeks of the season, unable to suit up.
"Playing behind Kyree is probably the best thing for me because I get to see what he does wrong and what he does right. So, when I come in I can know that, 'OK, Kyree just did that wrong, so then we do that right," Dexter said when asked about how both Campbell and Carter have helped him thus far this season.
"And then, guys like Zach, you just learn from them, like just watching them, you just learn from people like that ... they've been real good leaders for me, because every night Zach hit me up, (and would say) 'hey, you need to stretch,' and Kyree, before when he wasn't playing, he was hitting me up saying, 'this is what I need you to do this game, this is what I need you to do that game.' So, it's been a blessing to play behind guys like that."
Moving forward, Dexter will continue his development under defensive line coach David Turner and will continue to learn from guys like Campbell and Carter to reach new heights. On Saturday against the Vanderbilt Commodores, Dexter tallied six total tackles, one tackle-for-loss and a half-sack.
His development, and career, has just gotten started, and as he continues through his freshman campaign, look for Dexter to get better, back to dominating self as he was in high school.