On July 21st, Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison barked at a police dog. The formal charges were dropped but his two game suspension from the Florida football team still stands.
While he rejoined the team at practice August 8th, for now, he won’t suit up against Toledo on August 31st, or against Miami a week later. Redshirt junior Mike Taylor will take his place at MIKE linebacker in a role he’s played a bit during the last two seasons.
Taylor notched 32 tackles, only two less than Morrison last season, but while 27 of Morrison’s takedowns were unassisted, only 18 of Taylor’s tackles were without help.
The drop off in talent from Taylor to Morrison will be most evident in pass coverage. Morrison possesses lightning quick closing speed for a man with his frame. Both men are essentially the same size, Morrison 6’1” 229 pounds, Taylor 6’0” 231 pounds, but Morrison’s ability to cut down angles in the open field is what sets him apart.
“Man down, man up,” Taylor said when asked what he thought about being thrust into the role as Morrison’s replacement. Ask any Florida football player what the mantra is around the program this season and that’s what they’ll tell you. Injuries happen, sometimes players even get arrested, guys are out for any myriad of reasons but head coach Will Muschamp has instilled in his players a mindset that the next man on the depth chart is just as capable as his predecessor.
“MIKE and WILL [linebackers} are pretty much the same position, you just have different responsibilities, I’ve played both in all my years here so you’ll be comfortable at both positions when you’ve been here as long as I have,” Taylor said. Taylor slides over from one inside linebacker position to the other in Morrison’s absence. Taylor’s comfort and versatility knowing both inside linebacker roles was vital in finding a suitable replacement for Morrison.
Taylor says he and Morrison are friends and the relationship was one he missed while Morrison was indefinitely suspended. Morrison may be back for now, but against Toledo and Miami the Gators will be a man down. It’s up to Mike Taylor to step in and man up.