Taven Bryan calls him Shrek. Jim McElwain calls him one of the “Bam Bam” kids. Jordan Sherit calls him the 400-pound freshman from Fort Lauderdale.
But most people just call Tedarrell Slaton big. The defensive tackle has been hard to miss through his first five games at Florida. Slaton is listed at 6-foot-4, 356 pounds, making him the heaviest player on the Gators’ roster. But he’s even more massive in person.
"I thought he was 6-4 too until I got up on him. He's about 6-5, 6-6,” defensive line coach Chris Rumph said Wednesday. “Everybody thought the doggone eclipse was because of the sun, nah, it was (him) walking downtown.”
Slaton’s size made him a natural fit at offensive line as a high schooler at American Heritage. But Florida has him playing on the other side of the ball, and he’s adapted well enough to see the field in his first season. Slaton has played in all five of Florida’s games, recording at least one tackle in each matchup except for UF’s 17-16 loss to LSU. His best highlights came against Vanderbilt, where he split two offensive linemen — brushing them to his sides like saloon doors — before tackling running back Ralph Webb for a two-yard loss.
Slaton brings more than the right body type. He’s strikingly athletic and showcases it on Twitter, where he posts videos of himself dunking.
Just because pic.twitter.com/h7DrHJCvi4— Tedarrell Slaton Jr. (@d1bound0_77) May 17, 2016
UF left guard Brett Heggie has seen Slaton’s skill, as well as his potential, in practice.
“I don’t think I’m going to see too many guys as big as him or as athletic as him,” Heggie said.
“He’s going to be someone to watch in the future.”
But Slaton has a few issues to sort out before he can become a regular on the defensive line. Rumph said it could take a full year in Florida’s system before he has the endurance to become a three-down player in the SEC.
“Saturday, he started leaking oil after about four plays. I had to get him out of there before he blew a rod out there on the field,” Rumph said.
Luckily for Florida, Slaton has time to build that stamina. Defensive line is one of the few UF position groups that hasn’t lost any starters because of long-term injuries.
But with a little more energy and mobility, Rumph is confident Slaton can be a difference-maker for the defense.
“We've just got to get his weight down,” Rumph said. “Once he gets into shape, the sky's the limit for this guy.”
You can follow Matt Brannon on Twitter @MattB_727, and contact him at [email protected].