Former Florida Gator linebacker Johnny Rutledge, who starred at Florida from 1995-1998, earning ALL-SEC honors in both 1997 and 1998, joined “XL Primetime” on 1010XL Radio in Jacksonville. He was asked about this Gator team, starting with the defense.
“They are playing very well and I’m very proud of those guys,” Rutledge told 1010XL. “Coach (Todd) Grantham really knows how to dial up the blitzes and they have been playing well. So, I’m very proud of them and have been happy to watch them play.”
Rutledge, who was on the Florida 1996 national title team, experienced great success during his time in Gainesville. How hard it has been to see his alma mater struggle in recent seasons?
“For the last three or four years it has been tough to watch,” Rutledge said. “But lately, seeing what Coach (Dan) Mullen is doing this year, it has been awesome to see.
“The thing with Coach Mullen is Coach Mullen knows the DNA of the school. He knows what it takes to win, so I was very happy for it.
“I think the one guy that is not getting enough credit is strength coach Nick Savage. We finally have guys that look like football players. They are strong and mentally tough now. So, Coach Savage needs a lot of credit.”
Rutledge says the last two Florida wins over Mississippi State and LSU have been big for the program.
“These last two games have been what I call character building games,” Rutledge said. “We are not playing at a championship level yet, but they are taking those steps to be at that level. They are playing great and I’m happy to see those guys go out and play well.
“Wins like those build character and it builds confidence to where guys now think we can play against any team in the nation now and play well.”
Rutledge has additionally liked what he has seen from the current Gators’ linebackers, especially David Reese.
“Once he came back the defense kind of settled down,” Rutledge said. “He has been rock solid since he came back and it seems like he is the leader of that crew. So, he has been playing well and the sky is the limit.”
All eyes are beginning to shift to the ‘Cocktail Party” in Jacksonville, but Florida needs to avoid the trap game this week against Vanderbilt. Rutledge says that shouldn’t be a problem.
“I think Coach Mullen does a great job of getting the guys ready to play that week,” Rutledge said. “I don’t want to use the term ‘trap game’ because hopefully they will grow up fast and learn how to handle business.
“All we have to do is go up there, play good ball, come out healthy and then we will go from there.”
(You can follow Ryan Green on Twitter @RyanGreenGN)
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