The Florida Gators enter the 2018 season with some question marks at linebacker.
There is some proven talent in guys like David Reese and Vosean Joseph, who were Florida’s first and third leading tacklers a season ago. Then, there are guys like Rayshad Jackson and Kylan Johnson who have been around for a while but still have a lot to prove. And then, there is a group of freshmen and redshirt freshmen who are all fighting for playing time, but again, have not done anything yet.
A number of those players will need to step up if the Gators are going to be able to play the way linebackers coach Christian Robinson wants. He plans to throw a lot of bodies on the field in order to keep them fresh throughout the game.
“I told everybody if you think you’re going to play all 90 reps, you’re kidding yourself,” Robinson said. “I’d like to have a room full of guys playing 30 reps and maybe having some younger guys get in there when we do what we’re supposed to do.”
As of now, Robinson likes what he’s seeing in fall camp and thinks Florida will have the tools at linebacker to do that.
A jump in confidence is the one thing he kept pointing to, and it all started with strength and conditioning coach Nick Savage. As their bodies transformed throughout summer workouts, so did their mindsets.
“I think once they made it through Coach Savage’s workouts, they started to build more confidence in themselves,” he said. “They saw that they could make the plays that maybe they weren’t making in the spring and I think the confidence in just feeling comfortable and knowing what to expect, what kind of installment we’re going to have, we kind of progressed in the spring to a point and now we’re getting back to there with the installation.”
Another area the linebackers have made strides in is simply feeling comfortable in the new defense.
Whether they were a veteran or a newbie, the scheme was a completely new challenge for every single player on the field. After working through it in the spring, studying up on film in the summer and a few practices into fall camp, it is starting to become more natural.
They don’t have to think about what they are going to do before every play anymore. They just go do it.
“I’m excited about where we’re at,” Robinson said. “I think in any situation like this, you just want to see guys take the plays that you’re installing, give great effort and then coach off it. I think that’s the difference in what I’m seeing. In the spring, you had a lot of guys who were just trying to figure out how to get lined up and now we’re kind of flying around a little bit more.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Robinson was on the field working through the exact same things his players are right now. He knows how to relate to them and prepare them for the road ahead.
Confidence isn’t everything, but it is huge when it comes to a relatively inexperienced group in a new and challenging situation.