When Gerald Christian committed to Florida in April of 2009, he had hopes of following in former Gator Aaron Hernandez’s footsteps at tight end in the spread offense ran by Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio.
Christian was even more excited to play the position in a pro-style offense when Will Muschamp and Charlie Weis came to Gainesville.
Then everything changed during winter workouts.
The sophomore said he was approached by the coaching staff to switch over to the other side of the ball and play linebacker, a position he played alongside Gators safety Matt Elam when the two attended Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens.
“At first, I didn’t know why but they said it was the best fit for the team,” Christian said Monday. “They wanted to try me somewhere else because they needed big bodies playing linebacker, so they wanted to try me out there.”
On Tuesday, Muschamp said Christian is doing fine in the new position but will still get some plays on offense in bigger personnel sets.
“He’s a tough, physical player,” Muschamp said. “He likes the game. He likes the contact.”
Despite having to learn plays on both sides of the ball, Christian said learning defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s system hasn’t been difficult so far during the Gators’ spring practices.
He is currently listed as the top strongside linebacker on the coaching staff’s initial depth chart, but said the current chart doesn’t mean anything because it can change every day.
“That’s what they’re saying, but it’s not definite,” he said. “I still gotta earn the position. It’s just spring ball. Nothing is set in stone. But I feel like I’m gonna bust my butt every day.”
Junior linebacker Jonathan Bostic said Christian likes the transition to the other side of the ball because “he likes to hit people.”
“He was excited to come over,” Bostic said. “You could just tell just by the look on his face, he was ready to play defense. Since day one, he was ready to work.”
Bostic, who finished tied for third on the team last season with 57 tackles, said the entire defense has been eager to learn and practice this spring.
“It’s going pretty fast, but everybody’s helping each other out,” he said, “trying to talk a lot more out there than we did, so everybody’s gotta help everybody.”
Although Quinn is the third coordinator Bostic has worked with in Gainesville, he said understanding the defense not only carries over some things he learned with Charlie Strong and Teryl Austin, but also allows for a new learning experience.
“I kinda like it because I’m actually getting to learn different types of defenses,” he said. “It’s not really a change to me. I kinda see it as another learning aspect.”
One of those different types includes a 3-4 set, which Bostic said he had never played until Saturday’s practice.
“I like it. It gives us something new,” Bostic said. “It gives us a different look out there to confuse the offense.”
Gator Country reporter Safid Deen can be reached at email@example.com — You can also follow him on Twitter at SafidDeenGC