Replacing proven veterans and leaders in Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd, Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins will be no small task for Will Muschamp and the Gators to replace this season. But with the start of spring practice today, two players have already emerged and look poised to fill that role in 2013.
As the quarterback of any football team, you don’t have much choice in being a team leader. You are the voice in the huddle, the player that receives most of the blame when things go wrong and the guy who gets the most praise when things go right. So, naturally, Jeff Driskel will be looked to as a leader this spring and moving forward into the season.
Speaking about if he thought Driskel was a leader, Muschamp acknowledged that while Jeff may not be the most vocal player on the team, he leads in his own way.
“I don’t think you go out and go on the road and win in some of the environments that we’ve won in and not have leadership.” Muschamp continued. “Jeff’s a competitive guy; he’s not an extremely vocal guy. Which you don’t need to be in my opinion, you don’t have to be a vocal leader. You need to be a guy who demonstrates things the right way and pick and choose your opportunities to be vocal. Jeff can do that.
With no safety net behind him on the depth chart, it’s now or never for Driskel to take the next step in his development. The coaching staff has done a good job recruiting and Driskel will have more talent around him, especially at receiver, than he ever has.
Another player who will be counted on for leadership is Dominique Easley. Easley’s time in Gainesville started off rocky, it was reported that he skipped a practice and threatened to transfer his freshman season, but he has come on as one of the most productive players on the roster.
Easley has matured as much as any player on the team and shown to be a true team player, playing both defensive end and tackle to help with depth issues. When asked if Easley can be frustrating at time Muschamp didn’t miss a beat.
“He frustrated me when he jumps offsides. Other than that he doesn’t frustrate me very much at all. He’s a very talented, hard-playing guy and when the bullets start flying, I’m glad he’s in our foxhole.”
As far as becoming a leader, Muschamp agreed that Easley has earned more of a leadership role both on and off of the field.
“Dominique is a guy who has been very productive. The first way you become a leader is be productive. And you have respect from your teammates because they know you’ve been there and you’ve done it. You don’t get it with your mouth; you get it because of how you play the game and the production you put out.” Muschamp continued. “So he commands leadership immediately because of the way he plays and the production he brings. On top of all that he’s a guy who works hard. He works hard in the weight room. He loves the game, loves playing the game and I think that a lot of our younger players, especially, and his peers see that and understand that. And that’s why he is a good leader for us.”
The Gators lost a lot of talent and production to the NFL this past offseason but replacing the leadership that was lost is even more paramount. Coach Muschamp seems to have already found two guys who are ready and willing to step in and fill those roles. They won’t be the only players to take on those roles this season but as a coach, you couldn’t ask for two better guys to step up to the plate this early.