Garcia ready to get on the field

The 2012 season drug by for Max Garcia. After transferring from Maryland to Florida, he was forced to sit out last year and take a redshirt, but Garcia was still a factor on the scout team. It left the desire for more. Garcia embraced his role as a lineman that could make his teammates better, but this fall, getting on the field will make all the difference for the projected first team left guard.

"I'm still going to give the same intensity that I gave in practice, but it's about knowing that now it's time," Max Garcia said about getting on the field this year. "I haven't played since 2011. It's a blessing that I've been out of the game for a while and now I get to come back to it."

Last season was a learning lesson for Garcia. He was viewed as one of the best linemen in the ACC during his time at Maryland, and after pondering offers from Georgia and Clemson, he decided to play at Florida. The reputation he had as a dominant lineman didn't matter much when he couldn't get on the field last season.

Through that, he learned.

His focus changed and started to look fully at what he could do to be a good teammate and challenge the defensive players he faced every day when he worked with the scout team.

"Being able to serve my teammates in a way where I knew I wasn't going to be gratified on Saturdays by playing, just knowing that I helped them, that was one of the biggest things I took from last season," Garcia said. "It was a huge blessing to be a part of that team and being able to face Sharrif Floyd and Lerentee McCray every day in practice. It was a huge learning experience."

As the season went on, Garcia started to see more time in practice with the second team offensive line as preparation for what would happen this fall. The coaches wanted him to be ready to work and had high expectations for him. By the time the team was going through Sugar Bowl practices, Garcia was seeing most of his reps with the second and even some with the first team offensive line.

The coaches showed their belief in him when he was listed as the first team left guard, replacing graduated senior James Wilson at the position. After playing only tackle at Maryland, Garcia gained weight and strength in Gainesville to be ready to play guard.

"It's natural for me," Garcia said. "My body and how I've been filling out, I got more stout and aggressive. At Maryland, I weighed less and didn't feel as strong as I do now. I'm really confident in playing guard. I'm happy about it and can't wait to get out there."

Some transfers get stuck exclusively on the scout team during the year they sit out. The coaches knew their plan was for Garcia to play a big factor during the 2013 season, so they wanted him getting consistent reps with the first and second team offensive line.

That helped make the spring easier. Instead of learning the offense for the first time, Garcia already had the offense memorized and was ready to work.

"I picked up a lot about the offense," Garcia said. "I didn't know how we game planned each week, but I was involved in the whole offense."

The only thing slowing him down to start fall camp is a back injury. Inflammation and irritation originally popped up during the spring but was something he dealt with at practice. Garcia is still working out and plans to be back with the team shortly into fall camp, calling the injury "nothing too serious."

The redshirt junior also spent some time recruiting last season. He was the host for Trenton Brown when the junior college transfer made his official visit to Florida, and the two created a close bond that weekend. It has carried into the season, and Garcia expects big things from the 6-8, 363-pounder.

"He's just a big old dude," Garcia said of Brown. "You can't miss him anywhere, whether it's in the locker room or on campus. I feel like he's going to contribute this season. He has improved since getting on campus. I'm excited to see how well he does this year."

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