Team Getting Tougher, Stronger During Season

A year ago, the Florida football team was mired in mediocrity. A 6-6 regular season record was full of wins against teams they should have beaten without a doubt and losses to teams they should have lost to and a couple that were toss ups that the Gators came out on the wrong end of. An 11-1 mark showed marked improvement in 2012 and hard work was a lot to do with it. That work continues.

For junior center Jonotthan Harrison, the season is just a start of what he expects to be a great run by the Gators. He says the older guys learned from the last couple of years and were spurred not to repeat them.

"Just growth and maturity," Harrison answered when asked why this team was so much better than last. "We realize that we can't just throw the hat out there we actually have to work hard and do whatever it takes to win that ball game. It's a lot of maturity and leadership from the older players. We have to work day in and day out no matter what opponent it is to be successful."

Harrison says the new mindset is something that the Gators have instilled for the long run. "This is the beginning of a cycle," the massive 6-4, 310 pound lineman said. "I can't wait… I only have one more year but I am sure that in the years to come they will definitely do better with a veteran quarterback. He will learn from experience and things like that."

It all started in the off-season with a new strength coach and a bunch of Florida players that came to Gainesville to win championships and have stumbled along the way. Harrison knows that Florida's opponent in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday has a massive interior defensive line, but also knows Florida even now continues to get bigger and stronger to handle issues like that.

"My teammates and I have worked really hard and our coaches have really pushed us (to get better)," Harrison said. "I take a lot of pride in that and it is much deserved. We have seen changes in everybody whether it is on the field or in the weight room or film room. We see strides that everyone is making. I just can't wait till next year where we can work even harder and do even more.

"(Louisville does) have a couple of bigger guys, but we learned from experiences and we have worked hard to improve strength. As strange as it sounds we have seen our maxes in the weight room increasing even though we are in-season. I feel like we are getting stronger still even though the season has moved on. We know in order to come out on top we need to move the defensive line. As long as we do that we feel we will be successful."

Harrison also feels the season in the SEC, highlighted by a 7-1 record, will help them against teams that aren't in America's best football conference.

"It's a whole different ball game," he said of the conference that can boast the last six national champions. "The SEC is a whole different level of football in my opinion. It is more competitive and there are better athletes at every position. It is really an honor to play in the SEC and against SEC competition. You see people that put everything on the line and have a little more heart, I think that is what makes the SEC a little different.

"I just know that from playing SEC teams and playing teams from other conferences, it is a completely different feeling. The anxiety before the game, the level of competition going on the field is something different and something you can't explain."

That said, he believes he and his teammates are really looking forward to the big game on Wednesday.

"It is quite an experience and a wonderful atmosphere," Harrison said. "I am looking forward to (the game)."

New Look 2013 Offensive Line

The Gators will have to replace the left side of their offensive line with left tackle Xavier Nixon and left guard James Wilson graduating and moving on. Senior Sam Robey played some significant minutes as well, and will be gone. Matt Patchan decided to transfer.

Still guys like freshman D.J. Humphries and a trio of transfers are coming in and Harrison believes they will make an immediate impact with their insertion.

"We have a bunch of new people coming in and a bunch that have grown up already," he said. "We are going to miss Xavier, Robey, and James. That is the whole left side, but we have more players that have shown that they can step into the shoes of the players that are leaving and keep up the trend this line has."

Harrison was asked specifically about Maryland transfer Max Garcia and he had high praise for the versatile lineman.

"I can't wait to see Max Garcia," he said. "Left tackle and left guard are open for competition and he is one of the silent athletes that works harder than most of the athletes on the field period. He works and gets after it period play after play."

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