Gators DE Jabari Zuniga Wants to Prove His Versatility in Senior Bowl
MOBILE, Ala -- 2019 didn't go the way that former Florida Gators defensive end Jabari Zuniga wanted it to. Just take his word for it.
"I just felt like, I obviously didn't have the season I wanted to, and that's obviously the reason why I'm here," Zuniga told GatorMaven on Senior Bowl media day.
"I only played in five games, I played two of those games healthy, so I just feel like I have so much to prove [at the Senior Bowl]. I feel like I'm a versatile player, I want to show that I can rush from the 3-technique, I can rush and play the run from a 4i, a 5, a 9, you know, wherever."
In case you are unsure as to what Zuniga is discussing, techniques are certain positions across the defensive line that go more in-depth with pre-snap positioning than the "defensive end" or "tackle" label. Below is a diagram for further clarification.
"I feel like, I'm training down at Bommarito [Performance Systems in Davie, FL]," Zuniga continued on his injury recovery, "and I feel like those guys did a really good job of getting me healthy, and getting me back to where I need to be."
The 6-3, 253 lb. defensive lineman suffered an ankle sprain against Kentucky in Week 3 of Florida's 2019 season, a year in which he came back to school to boost his draft stock. Rather, the injury nagged Zuniga throughout the year, and although he saw some action throughout the season, he didn't return for Florida fully healthy until the Orange Bowl.
Yet, despite only playing 188 snaps, Zuniga found a way to post 19 quarterback pressures on the season, good for fifth most on the team. On tape, he's proven that he can be a disruptive player. Now, he wants to prove that he's versatile, which he believes is ideal as a prospect.
"I think it's very important [to be versatile] because in the NFL you have teams that are 4-3, 3-4, you have teams that are bringing different packages, so just to have that on film I do feel is super important," said Zuniga.
On his 188 snaps in 2019, 58 came along the interior (equating to almost 31% of his snaps), while his remaining 129 snaps came from the edge. That percentage is a large uptick from his 2018 season, when Zuniga saw 12.4% of his snaps come at defensive tackle.
"In the run game, it kind of is [tough]," Zuniga spoke of playing inside. "But I came in on passing downs and in pass packages, so I just feel like that's the area I excelled at, just being a versatile player."
During the week at the Senior Bowl, Zuniga continued to split his snaps between the edge and interior. He's still a bit rusty from missing so much time in 2019, and there were struggles getting off of run blocks as he alluded to, but there were moments where Zuniga flashed excellent speed and strength from both spots.
Zuniga's biggest believer in the process is fellow South team and former Florida teammate, edge rusher Jonathan Greenard.
"He can do anything," Greenard said of Zuniga. "Zu is an athletic freak, he's super, super strong; he's super, super fast, so when you have that type of skillset, you can do a lot of things across the line that'll make you more productive."
Zuniga will have one final opportunity to showcase his versatile skillset in pads in the Senior Bowl game today. You can watch Zuniga, Greenard, wide receivers Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland, and running back Lamical Perine complete on NFL Network today at 2:30 P.M. ET.