8/18: Christian comfortable, defense making adjustments, Lerner dealing with Crohn’s

By Adam Silverstein
August 18, 2011

With the Florida Gators in the middle of preseason practice preparing for their first game on Sept. 3 at home against Florida Atlantic, a number of prominent players were made available to the media on Thursday to discuss how the team is progressing.

CHRISTIAN COMFORTABLE AS SECOND TIGHT END

It may have taken a talented freshman to go down for him to get more playing time, but redshirt freshman tight end Gerald Christian is happy to have the opportunity and plans to make the most of it. “You don’t want to wish injuries upon people, but since there have been injuries I’ve had to fill a bigger role, take more snaps in practice and show what I can do. I feel like it gave me more of an opportunity,” he said.

Moved to linebacker in the spring to help the team improve its depth, Christian was transitioned back to tight end at the end of those practice periods and has not been back since. “It was tough but after spring ball, they told me they wanted me to be more on the offensive side, so I’ve been good now,” he said.

With offensive coordinator Charlie Weis using the two tight end set “a lot,” Christian knows the time is now for him to make an impact. “I’ve just been busting my butt every day trying to make plays and show them that I can contribute to the team,” he said.

DEFENSE STILL MAKING ADJUSTMENTS

[EXPAND Click to expand and read the rest of this post.]Head coach Will Muschamp’s defensive mantra has already been engrained in his players’ heads. “We just want to be physical – physical up front – we want to stop the run and play great defense,” junior linebacker Jon Bostic said when asked about the unit’s goals on Thursday.

As Muschamp has related previously, the strength of the defense will start in the trenches, and Bostic believes that similarities with the team’s schemes under former defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Teryl Austin are helping the players adjust quickly. “Most of the stuff carried over from the two defenses in the past,” he said. “A lot of the concepts that we ran before were pretty much brought over to this defense. One more thing is that we’re going to be a lot more aggressive coming after the quarterback.”

To that end, Muschamp was critical of the defense’s consistency in the pass rush. Bostic echoed those sentiments with parallel thoughts. “We just got to have guys coming out day after day with their assignments,” he said. “We can’t come out one day be a dominant pass rusher, the next day not be a dominant pass rusher. We need the whole front seven out there; even the safeties are coming on blitzes, too. Everybody has got to be able to get home.”

Bostic also realizes that the entire defense needs to be on the same page and praised sophomore safety Matt Elam for his improved communication during fall practice. “Everybody’s got to work together, so we need the guys on the back end to be on the same page as the front seven. We all go tot communicate,” he said.

“Matt was always one of those guys who was kind of quiet on the back end; they needed him really to step up. These two-a-days, he’s really stepped up. With some guys going down and some position switching, every guy has had to keep everyone on the same page. Matt’s been doing a great job of getting the new safeties that have moved into that position into the right look.”

LERNER DEALING WITH CROHN’S

Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in late July after he began feeling sick around the 22nd of the month, senior punter David Lerner’s primary job – aside from getting the ball down the field – is staying hydrated and eating as much as he can whenever he can.

Down 15 pounds since being diagnosed, Lerner is pleased that team doctors were able to figure out his health issue quickly. “Within a week I knew I had Crohn’s,” he said. “The athletic training team and the doctors did an amazing job really helping me out. Within five days I knew what was going on and sometimes it can take literally months for people to find out that kind of stuff.”

Lerner received the support of the coaching staff, trainers and his teammates immediately, something that helped him get through a very scary episode in his life. “I didn’t have to really convince them at all to stay on the team,” he explained. “Two days after I got diagnosed, Coach called me and said, ‘Whatever you need we’ll get for you. We want you.’ He was very supportive in that. I was definitely depressed with everything that was going on, and that definitely gave me some hope.

“I was definitely very worried at first [that I might not be able to play], but then the doctor, Coach Muschamp, the training staff and really all the coaches were just very supportive and helpful. It was very, very emotionally helpful for me.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Christian on how the offense as a whole is doing: “Every area needs improvement – all positions can use improvement – but the offense we have has been clicking as team. We’re coming together and getting better every day.”

» Christian on redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley: “Right now Brantley, he’s been here the longest, he knows the offense the best and has more experience than everybody else. I’m not knocking the other quarterbacks; they’re good, too. I see Brantley as the starter the first game.”

» Christian on freshman QB Jeff Driskel: “Jeff is good, too. Jeff is really good. It’s good that we have younger players stepping up. I feel like if anything happens that he can fill the role. I trust him. […] He’s made a big improvement. He looks really good.”

» Christian on redshirt sophomore TE Jordan Reed: “He’s just real athletic, he’s a real athletic kid.”

» Christian on the tight end drills: ”We have Coach [Derek] Lewis, and he emphasizes a lot on us pads low, hand placement, keep your feet moving. When we first go through it, that’s all we do – blocking stuff. He’s trying to get us good and effective.”

» Bostic on how running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey compare and contrast: “Rainey is probably the more elusive one out of the two, he’s probably the better route runner. Demps, you give him a seam and he’s gone. He’s starting to pick up some of the elusiveness from Rainey, but both of them are pretty much similar.”

» Bostic on junior LB Dee Finely: “Dee Finely is a guy who moved from the safety position, and he’s done very well. He’s picked up a lot of things in these two-a-days, too.”

» Bostic on freshman S Chris Johnson, who is also playing some linebacker: “You can tell he’s an athlete. He’s just got a nose for the ball and can find the ball very well. He’s still new to the position, so he’s learning a lot out there. […] He’s one of those guys that can play both. He’s just got a head for the ball. He loves to hit, and I think that’s one of the reasons they brought him down in the box, because he’s real aggressive.”[/EXPAND]

One Comment

  1. npgator says:

    The more that I read about this team the more fired up I am getting going into the season! Great work Adam!

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