Had Jarrad Davis stuck with his original commitment during the 2013 recruiting season, he would have gone on a wonderful joy ride with the Auburn Tigers last season instead of breaking down with the Gators during a clunker of a 4-8 season.
But the rising star at linebacker says he has zero regrets about backing out of a long-standing oral commitment to Auburn and signing with Florida a little more than a year ago.
“I’m human, so of course that has ran through my mind. But there’s never a regret,” Davis said. “I feel like I made the best decision for me and my family. To see a team do that (go to the BCS Championship Game), everybody has the same opportunity. They took advantage of their opportunity. We didn’t take the biggest advantage of ours, but we’re working hard this offseason to make sure that we don’t let that slip again.”
Davis saw himself fitting in fine at Auburn, but when Will Muschamp and his staff started seriously pursuing him, he quickly made the flip to Florida.
”At first, it was really the coaches. And then I looked back at them when the new staff came in, but I really fell in love with Florida once they came on,” he said. “Florida was my big ticket all along, and I really, this is my dream school really. Like I said, no regrets, man. I’m glad to be a Gator. I love this place.”
Florida thinks a lot about Davis, too. The linebacker from Kingsland, Ga., was one of the few bright spots during a dismal 2013 season. He emerged as a playmaker on special teams early in the season, something that led to seeing significant (and starting time) at outside linebacker during the second half. He emerged as one of the biggest hitters and playmakers on defense, and now he’s solidified his status as a starter.
“Special teams were my big ticket,” Davis said. “A lot of guys coming in, everybody knows that special teams are big and they hear it from the coaches, but I felt like me personally, I took that in and I ran with it. In high school, special teams were what got me on the field. I said in college special teams were going to get me on the field. I went out and I took advantage of it when they put me on the first-team kickoff. I just went and ran with it.”
At the same time, Davis said he dove into the playbook to learn the defense as quickly as he could, and also got an assist from the veteran linebackers.
“I just took the time out to really focus on what the coaches were trying to throw at us,” he said. “So there were some plays that I really didn’t know. With Mike Taylor and Antonio Morrison and Neiron Ball, I leaned on those guys a lot. They were older than me, they understood the stuff and they really broke it down for me in a way that I could understand it. We understood the concepts the same way. We used the same acronyms to kind of compare things, so I really just took it from their aspect and looked at it the way coach was teaching us.”
Davis seems to be a driven and determined competitor. He said there are many just like him on the team who are working to make sure that what happened last season doesn’t happen again.
“We’re all about business right now, all working as hard as we can to get to the best position we can be for the season,” Davis said. “(The 4-8 season) hurt me. It hurt everybody on the team. I definitely feel like that’s a big reason why we’ve all decided to change the way we look at things and the way we take each opportunity that we get each day.”
Davis said it was surreal the way last season went for the Gators.
“The best thing I can compare that to is probably just like being hit in the mouth,” Davis said. “You’re coming out. You feel like you’re the big dog and everything. Like you’re the biggest kid in school, right, and you’ve been known to be a bully or whatever. And you walk up and this new kid comes in. He’s scrawny. He just comes in first day and he hits you right in the mouth and you don’t know what to do. You just fall out on the ground and you get picked up.
“That’s what it felt like. I felt like coming to the University of Florida, there were really just a lot of expectations. I saw them go 11-2 the year before and I’m like, ‘Man, we’re about to roll into this next season hot.’ And the next thing you know, we just come out swinging pretty hard and then somebody strikes us and we all just fall down, fall to pieces.”