Halapio Looking to Lead through Transition

The Florida Gators were missing leaders a year ago. Gone from 2009 were Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, and a slew of other older and wiser players that had been through the wars of the SEC. That leadership never materialized on certain parts of the team and the Gators finished under expectations. A younger team in 2011, guys like sophomore guard Jon Halapio may be forced to take on that kind of role.

Jon Halapio got his feet wet a year ago and struggled at times. So goes the life of a freshman along the offensive line in the SEC. now a sophomore and one of the more experienced players on the line, Halapio is ready to take a leadership role on this 2011 Florida Gators football team.

"We have some leaders stepping up right now," Halapio told the Florida media this week. "It's a lot different. We don't have the Tebow and Spikes, the Mike and Maurkice Pouncey's, it's a lot different."

Halapio is starting to feel the need to be a leader and is getting that backing from his teammates as well. It is a group of relatively young guys that will have to take the reins this year.

"I feel like I am getting more respect from the offensive and defensive players," he said. "It's hard but I like it. The pressure will be there no matter what.

Halapio is noticing a couple of sophomore front seven guys that are taking charge of the huddles and their teammates right now as well as a couple of older guys with him on offense.

"I see Ronald Powell on defense and Sharrif Floyd stepping up," Halapio said. "On offense I see myself, Xavier Nixon, and John Brantley."

Getting in the way of being a leader is the learning curve he and the other linemen are going through. Moving from a spread option offense to a more pro-style attack is not a small task, but one they are pressed to do and get it down as quickly as possible.

"It's a transition," Halapio said emphatically. "Everything is new. Everything is different from last year."

One thing that offensive line coach Frank Verducci is forcing on these guys is the understanding of the each play concept as a whole. Therefore they are having to learn each play in the playbook from the aspect of every player in the play.

"The offensive line coach is not only teaching techniques, we have to know the whole entire play," Halapio said. "We have to know what the quarterback is thinking, running back is thinking, and wide receiver is thinking just to make the play successful.

"If I mess up on this block and I know the running back is coming through this hole, I have to make sure that hole is open."

When it comes to offensive line coach Frank Verducci, the word respect has come from the linemen and from prospects that Florida is recruiting on the offensive line. His vast NFL experience tells them everything they need to know about the guy.

"He's real professional, exact and to the point," Halapio said of Verducci. "Whatever he has to say, you are going to get it. He's been in the NFL for a while, so I trust everything he has to say.

Halapio gave props to a couple of the quarterbacks that he plays alongside. When asked to explain how John Brantley was stepping it up as a leader, he mentioned something that did not happen a year ago.

"Brantley is a real vocal leader now," Halapio said. "He is always talking and getting practice all hyped up. I see a real change in John Brantley. I just see him as more of a captain and a leader now. He is the captain of the ship and we are just going to ride with him."

True freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel had a rough start to spring. A guy that should be finishing his last semester in high school, Driskel is on campus early and competing to get on the field. Halapio was asked what player on offense has surprised him the most.

"I want to say Jeff Driskel," he answered. "The way he holds himself in the huddle and runs plays, he is holding himself real well right now. The first few days were tough and now he is doing real (well)."

Asked for an example of Driskel's sign of growth and maturity, Halapio talked about his advanced athletic ability.

"I can tell you this, when he is in the pocket and something is flying at him, he can run real fast."

The sophomore guard also talked about sophomore BUCK / SAM linebacker Ronald Powell. Powell seems to be the guy that everyone has been mentioning in the early spring reports.

"He's doing real good as well as the other defensive players," Halapio said. "The whole defense is doing real well right now."

Compared to a year ago, Halapio said Powell is a "beast" and knows more of what he is doing on the field.

"He was just trying to be somewhere where he was supposed to be," he said. "Now he is just running through people."

He also glowed about senior running back Chris Rainey who has gotten a ton of accolades this spring from head coach Will Muschamp.

"He's so fast and doing real well from last year," Halapio said of Rainey. "His cuts are more sweet, routes more precise, he's just a good football player right now."

Fightin Gators Top Stories