Maye focused on winning the state

The Florida players hear about it from head coach Will Muschamp all the time. The Gators want to win the state. This is a rare year for Florida, having the chance to play Florida State and Miami during the regular season for the first time since 2008. The Miami rivalry is different since it doesn't happen every year, but safety Marcus Maye said this week still has the feel of an important game.

Will Muschamp addressed the team at the beginning of the week, talking about the importance of the rivalry and the need for players to keep their cool on Saturday. He also gave the team a quick rundown of the rivalry's history, and other members of the staff will be addressing the team about the rivalry throughout the week.

The coaches have tried to make it as similar to a normal rivalry week as possible.

"It's definitely a big game," Marcus Maye said. "It's an in-state game. Muschamp harps on winning the state, so every time there's an in-state team, we always want to win that game. It's a game on the schedule, so we always want that W next to that team on the schedule.

"It's going to be a great atmosphere. We're all looking forward to it."

Maye said the football facility this week has a similar feel to before the games against Florida State and Georgia. That intensity ramps up for some of the south Florida players on the team before they head home to take on a team that plenty of them grew up cheering for.

"It's a big-time school down there," Maye said. "Miami's a great program. Two big-time programs going against each other -- it's always a big game."

Maye looked at Miami during the recruiting process. He took an unofficial visit to Coral Gables before committing to Florida early in the process. The Hurricanes had recently hired Al Golden and were dealing with the cloud of NCAA sanctions, but Maye always wanted to play in Gainesville.

"(The NCAA sanctions) had a big part in it," Maye said. "I knew I wasn't going to go down there, so it wasn't that big of a deal to me."

Saturday was a milestone for Maye. He sat out with a meniscus injury last season and took a redshirt. After putting together a strong offseason, Maye earned a starting safety spot in the Florida defense and took the field in The Swamp for the first time on Saturday. Maye made only one tackle but was happy that he was in position on the field, as the defense held Toledo to just two field goals.

"It was great," Maye said with a smile. "Saturday was a big day for me, just first game back from injury after taking last year off. I was excited. I was a little anxious, little nervous at one point. Once I got out there, everything slowed down and I got used to the speed.

"I think I did good. I did my job and made a few plays when I was supposed to. I was in the right spot. I communicated well with the secondary. The defense played well, so for the first game, I felt like I did good."

Starting on the defense was an important part of the day. Maye didn't have to sit on the bench and wait for his turn. The first time the Florida defense took the field, the redshirt freshman was out there.

"It was definitely a big difference," Maye said. "Very confident, just going out there knowing what to do and just playing and not thinking. I felt confident going out there."

The Gators will have an important returner to the defense on Saturday. Linebacker Antonio Morrison will return, and even though he's currently listed as the backup at the MIKE linebacker position behind Michael Taylor, Morrison will see plenty of time on the field.

"I'm excited for him to get back," Maye said. "It's definitely a big addition to the team. He's an unbelievable linebacker, a great player, a hard-nosed guy. He knows the defense. He just adds more depth to the linebacker position, being a great player on the field for us."


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