Christian Adjusting Quickly to New Role

Gerald Christian admits he was confused when the Florida coaches first proposed the move to linebacker. He was ready to play tight end in the pro-style offense, but the move to defense made sense the more he thought about it. The need for linebackers found him as the first team SAM linebacker when head coach Will Muschamp issued the first spring depth chart.

"At first, I didn't know why," Gerald Christian said. "They told me it was the best fit for the team and wanted to try me somewhere else because they needed big bodies playing linebacker."

The move was proposed recently before the end of winter workouts. Christian left Dwyer High School as a two-way player, but Florida saw him as having the potential to duplicate what Aaron Hernandez did in the spread offense. With Muschamp's new defense and the Gators using some 3-4, the lack of depth at linebacker was glaring.

That's part of the reason Christian is at the top of the depth chart already, but he also knows it makes it even more important for a smooth transition.

"It hasn't been difficult," Christian said. "I've been catching on really quick. I still have to brush up on some stuff though. It's just about being more physically with my hands."

The depth chart was released last Monday with Christian slotted as the starting SAM linebacker ahead of redshirt freshman Gideon Ajagbe.

"That's what they're saying, but it's not definite," Christian said. "I'm number one on the depth chart, but I've still got to earn the position. It's just spring ball and nothing is set in stone."

When the depth chart was released, Muschamp had the same message for the team as he had for the media. It wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. It was put together before Muschamp and his staff had a chance to see any of the players with pads on, so it was inevitable that change could occur.

"He was telling us that the depth chart doesn't mean anything," Christian said. "It's just something they put together. It can change any day."

The defense Christian has been studying is one he can already tell will be fun for the players. He's excitement centered on "a lot of blitzing" in the playbook.

The pressure of being with the first team heading into the spring is noticeable, but it pushes him to work harder and not lose the position. It's not his preferred route, though.

"Honestly, I would've felt better being at the bottom and trying to work up to the top," Christian said. "I'm going to work hard, anyway."

The move also reunites Christian with high school teammate Matt Elam, who is expected to start at strong safety this fall. The two played next to each other on a Dwyer defense that was one of the best in the state during their senior seasons.

"He was happy about it," Christian said. "He just said it's back like high school when we used to play linebacker side-by-side. He's happy for me to be back over there with him."

Playing linebacker also gives Christian a chance to face a former teammate this fall. Former Dwyer tight end Nick O'Leary signed with Florida State and should see immediate playing time for the Seminoles this fall. It's a matchup Christian can't wait for.

"When I went back home over spring break, I was bugging him about it," Christian said. "I kept telling him I was going to D him up. I'm excited about that."

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