For the first time this fall, new Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Wednesday to discuss some of the latest developments concerning his side of the ball and the team in general.
Sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison made a big splash for the Gators as a true freshman in 2012, starting three games in place of Jelani Jenkins and finishing the year with 34 tackles and a big sack/forced fumble in the final regular season game against Florida State. Though Morrison will miss the first two games of the 2013 campaign (as of press time) for off-the-field incidents over the summer, he returned to practice last week and is already looking like his old self.
“The guy brings great energy to practice. He’s very physical. He loves playing football. He’s very into what he does. He’s got great respect from his teammates and coaches. He’s been a pro about it since he’s been back,” Durkin said on Wednesday.
“Everyone was excited to see him back out there. He’s their guy, one of their teammates, so they were excited when he came back. I don’t know if it’s coincidence or not, but we had a great practice the day he came back. But we’ve had several great practices, so I don’t know how much that had to do with it. But we’re all happy to see him back.”
Like Morrison a year ago, freshman LB Daniel McMillian is earning some high praise from the coaching staff for his tenacious work ethic and eye-catching athletic ability. Durkin certainly notices the similarities between the two players.
“Those guys, they really want to learn the game. They’re hungry for more. They’re not just out there practicing and then move on and don’t think about it again,” he said. “They’re both in their playbooks a lot and watching film. They don’t want to be on the field and not know what they’re supposed to do because they’re competitive. They want to be in a spot where they’re going to go succeed, so they put the time in to do it.”
He continued: “D-Mac is a guy that competes and loves football. He is in the film room all the time. He’s always trying to get better, asking questions on the field and off the field. He really wants to be great. He wants to play and contribute and he will. You mix that with the ability level he has and you have something pretty special right there. We saw that going into the recruiting process with him, and that’s what we got here.”