Maye healthy and turning heads

There were times early in the spring when Marcus Maye felt like a freshman again. After coming to Gainesville with a torn meniscus last summer, Maye was held out of practice for the first half of the season. When he was able to get back on the field, the decision was made to give him a redshirt. Now healthy with two starting spots open, Maye is feeling healthy and learning the defense this spring.

There's only so much Maye could have learned about the Florida defense last season. He sat through all the meetings and watched film with the safeties, but when he got healthy and the team was on the practice field, Maye was on the scout team and replicating the defense for that week's opponent.

That's changing this spring.

Maye was realistic about it, admitting that it has been a challenge at times to learn some of the finer points of the defensive scheme, but as his knowledge has increased, so has the number of plays he's making in practice.

"It's been difficult because there's a lot," Marcus Maye said. "But I just keep telling myself every day to get better and better, to learn all the stuff that I need to learn. There's a lot, but I just keep learning the playbook and taking the playbook home at night."

Players and coaches started mentioning Maye at the midway point of the spring as a player that was starting to make plays. That's about the time he was starting to get a grasp on the defense and play faster because of it. The 6-0, 200-pound safety has the size to stick in the box, and he's making plays in coverage, too.

The increased in making plays has caught the eye of the man in charge of the defense.

"That'd be fair to say," Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said when asked about Maye coming on. "Marcus came with an injury last year to us.?This is really his first time. He wasn't healthy until midseason, so he was?a redshirt guy and playing on scout team and that sort of thing. This?is the first time he's actually going through football and really?learning our defense."

The torn meniscus slowed his progress last year. Maye's production in the secondary might've been limited because of the depth and starters Matt Elam and Josh Evans returning at safety, but being involved in special teams would've given him more of an idea how the Gators did things on that side of the ball.

The halfway point in the 2012 season is when things started to change. Maye's knee was cleared and he was back on the practice field. Even though it was limited to scout team, he was just happy to be healthy and back on the field.

"I felt fast, I felt like I had my explosion back," Maye said. "I was able to run, jump and stuff that felt comfortable doing without thinking about it."

Now he's in a battle for a starting position.

Jabari Gorman and Cody Riggs started the spring at the top of the depth chart, but Riggs has missed practices with an injury. Valdez Showers has also been in the battle with Maye. It hasn't produced clear starters in the fall -- and freshmen who come to campus in the summer will also be involved in the battle -- but Maye's late push for the job has been a positive in the Florida secondary.

"It's kind of like the freshman learning curve?where those first couple days, it seems like a lot and they have a lot?of indecision and playing hesitant or slow, but then as?you pick it up, you get more comfortable and the guys do better," Durkin said.?"That's how he has done it. We're very pleased with Marcus and what he?has done. I think Marcus is going to be a great player for us."


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