Shortly after a practice Adarius Lemons sent out a tweet. It was short, just four words and an emoji, but the message couldn’t be misconstrued.
“I officially hate linebackers.”
I officially hate linebackers 👿
— Adarius Zabri Lemons 32 (@adariuslemons) August 5, 2018
“I know he tweeted that because Ventrell (Miller) knocked his helmet off one practice,” Redshirt freshman James Houston said. “We’ve been giving it to Lemons. Lemons has been getting it. He has to get a little bit more weight, but he’s still nice, though, he’s still nice.”
Houston and Miller are the future of linebacker for the Gators according to starting middle linebacker David Reese. Miller, from Lakeland, and Houston from Ft. Lauderdale both were caught up in the alleged credit card fraud and missed their freshmen seasons in 2017. Each of them have followed their deferred prosecution agreements and have been fully participating since the spring.
“I had to look at my life and re-evaluate where I was going and how I was thinking and going about things,” Houston said. “I feel like I’m a different person.”
Miller said more of the same.
“I mean it was a humbling experience. I wanted to be on the field like that, so it humbled me. I feel like it made me a better player.”
With the situation behind them the players that returned from that suspension have attacked the offseason with full force.
“We’re all hungry,” Houston said. “All four of us that came back we’re ready for something this year.”
Houston started out as a BUCK linebacker in Todd Grantham’s defense. He played there in the spring and started the fall there as well. Florida’s defensive line and BUCK linebacker spots are loaded, so the coaching staff made the decision to move Houston to middle linebacker. He’s only been there for a week but he made an impression on the starter in front of him already, as has Miller.
“They are two great linebackers. I feel like that’s going to be the future of this defense,” Reese said of the two redshirt freshmen. “I feel like those guys, Ventrell is good in coverage and Houston is also a very fast guys and can get to the ball very quick.”
Both of the linebackers are fast and physical with a violence to their game that is a throwback to older days. Miller started playing football when he was six years old and says he used to “tote the rock” playing running back. It wasn’t until he got to high school that he decided hitting was better than getting hit.
“I’ve always been aggressive, like, when I was running the ball,” he said. “On defense, I’ve always been aggressive. I like to hit, so that’s probably where it came from.”
The move inside has benefitted Houston, who played the same position in high school and having a veteran like Reese playing in front of him has been like having a coach on the field teaching him as he goes.
Houston tore his ACL during his junior season of high school so he hasn’t been able to play real football for over two years. He’s had a date circled on his calendar for some time now and it’s creeping closer and closer with each passing day.
“Y’all going to see a show, September 1,” he said. “Y’all are going to see a show, I promise you that.”