Of course the selfish Gator fans are happy that Michael Pouncey will stick around to play his senior season in a Gator uniform. The two year starter at guard will move to the center position vacated by his brother after getting his draft projection and talking to counselors and coaches.
“It was the best move for me and my family,” Pouncey told the media last week. “I let a lot of it go on what Coach Addazio thought. He said it would be better if I came back.”
Maurkice spent two seasons as the starter at center for the Gators and received high praise culminating in the 2009 Rimington Trophy awarded to college football's top center. Michael Pouncey would like to be the part of the first set of twins to win the award.
“I feel like I can be a great center, I used to practice all of last season in case Maurkice went down,” Michael said. “I have to know all the positions and the plays in case someone forgets. I came back and Coach Addazio asked me where I wanted to play and I could have played tackle or center, so I chose center. Centers are more valued in the league, so I just hope it all works out.”
Michael understands it will be different with his twin brother not around. They have been playing together their entire lives, but some folks may forget they were split on opposite sides of the ball for half of their freshman seasons when Michael was moved to defense to shore up the line on that side of the ball.
Still, they have never been on different teams before and it will be strange.
“We still have our great relationship and I am good with it,” Michael said of he and his brother. “It's going to be weird, but I have been with these guys on the offensive line for three to four years so I feel like they will be there for me.”
Offensive linemen are like brothers and this group has been through a lot. The Florida line returns four starters from a group that helped lead the sixth best offense in the country in 2009 and an offense that had the highest passing efficiency.
Pouncey likes the make up of the group and thinks they will be even better than the one that played in 2009.
“We've got a lot of depth this year and we have a lot of guys that are going to compete for a lot of positions on a better offensive line this year,” he said. “We have a lot of old guys up front and a great quarterback...(The line) It can be real good, we can be one of the best lines in the country. We have the talent, we just have to prove it.”
Pouncey knows he will have to be a team leader in a season where the Gators last a great deal of talent, but also return a lot.
“I have to lead this team,” Pouncey said. “I have the most starts on the team and I just have to go out there and prove day by day that we are going to be a good team next year.
It will take a lot of hard work and he and his fellow linemen are already putting in he time.
“I strive for myself to be the best, so I just go in there and work out,” he said. “I have been training with Maurice Hurt this whole off season getting him better and he is getting me better.”
The line also knows that the offense is going to lean on them this season with their experience and apparent talent.
“We are the most experienced on the offense, so we have a big role to take care of,” Pouncey said. “We have a lot of young guys that can be in the starting line up that will try to win some spots in the spring.
The biggest change on offense will of course be at quarterback. All everything quarterback Tim Tebow is gone and in his place is John Brantley. Now a junior, Brantley comes in with a big time high school resume and not much time on the field in college to say much. However, Pouncey wouldn't likely be back if he didn't believe Brantley was good enough to be a very good quarterback.
“He's not new to us, we have seen everything he can do in practice,” Pouncey said of Brantley. “Everyone knows on the field he is a great quarterback, we just have to find a way to replace them rushing yards Tebow had.”
The offense may look a little different, but don't expect whole sale changes in scheme with Brantley at the helm. Pouncey has been practicing with Brantley on hiking the ball with the quarterback's hands directly under him.
“I don't think (the offense) going to change, we will probably do a lot more stuff under center, but we will still have a lot of the same style of offense,” Pouncey said. “I feel more comfortable snapping with him underneath me, but I can do either...We do under center snaps every day after work outs. It's not bad because John is used to taking it from under center, he is more of a pro style quarterback.”
Pouncey realizes again that a lot of the load will be placed on the offensive line as Brantley really gets his feet wet as a college quarterback.
“He has an experienced line in front of him, so that will help him out a lot,” Pouncey said of Brantley. “All he really has to do is worry about the plays and we are going to hold it down in front...We encourage him all the time and he knows he is good and just has to prove it to everyone else. He is going to be one of the top quarterbacks next year.”
As for the enforcer on offense, it has been Tebow for three years, but Pouncey understands he will have to be the guy that is barking out at his teammates when things aren't going perfect.
“I have to take over that role,” Pouncey said. “We can't let Brantley yell at them.”
And in the offseason it is a collaborative effort. The 2009 team fell on its face in Atlanta losing terribly to the eventual national champion Crimson Tide of Alabama. That is part of the motivation for this offseason to make 2010 even better than 2009.
“We hear all the talk,” he said. “We do stuff in the weight room to try and help us finish games because we didn't finish one last year.”
Pouncey came back to finish strong.