Lead by example; the only way

The Florida Gators are looking to rebound from a tough season in 2013. Something missing from the 2013 group were leaders. Injuries had a lot to do with that, but there was nobody there to step up when some key components went down. Linebackers Michael Taylor and Antonio Morrison say talking about it won't get it done. They plan on helping lead the team with their actions.

As one of the interior linebackers for the Florida Gators, Michael Taylor understands he has to do what he can to push himself and his teammates toward their goals. His way of thinking isn't to go out and tell the younger guys what to do; he still has to prove himself. They will learn by following the actions of someone playing well.

"Leadership is something that's important," Taylor told the Florida media. "It's something that happens naturally. It's something that's not done vocally. It's done through your actions. Guys will try to be vocal leaders and try to say every word in the dictionary, but you can do it all you want if you're not setting the right example (it isn't happening)."

Junior Antonio Morrison agrees and says that some players are taking it to heart and nesting their tail for a better 2014 season.

"Last year, we basically had no leaders out there," Morrison said. "We had no voice for the team. Your leadership needs to come from how you play it don't need to come from saying anything. It needs to come from how you're playing. But there's a lot of opportunity right now. A few guys are stepping up. (I'm not) going to say (any names) but a few guys are stepping up."

Taylor continued with the ‘talk is cheap' mantra.

"Wrong kind of leadership," he said of 2013. "More vocal, rather than action. You know, we need action rather than just people saying what they're going to do or just telling people what to do."

Taylor says the group of linebackers is working hard and trying to do the things they need to do to lead the defense.

"Nobody's really even saying anything," Taylor said. "It's just really just everybody's going out there and playing and getting better. Everybody's really doing it. Because nobody's really saying anything. That's good."

Morrison says there won't be a repeat of last season.

"We just know that's unacceptable," Morrison said. "We're not trying to put that on the field anymore."

The two have been competing for the same spot, and Taylor says that he has been running more with sophomore Daniel McMillian in the second group, but Morrison, Taylor, and sophomore Jarrad Davis will all get time at the WILL and MIKE this year.


"Actually me and him play the same position, so we haven't been getting first-team reps (together)," Taylor said. "We've been splitting those. So he'll go. He's been getting the majority of the one reps. I've been getting the twos. But that's fine because I've been going with D-Mac, who's really coming along. He's really been picking up the defense and been making a lot of plays. It's been really fun going out there with him and then going with the younger guys that are out there. They're trying to pick it up. So I can help them with calls and stuff because I know the system a lot better than they do."

Taylor enjoys helping the young McMillian who is steady learning and has all of the tools to be an elite linebacker.

"Anytime he has a question for me or anytime he's unsure about something on the field, you know communication is key in life and on the field," Taylor said about when he helps McMillian. "So if you have good communication between your linebackers, that's going to make you even more effective."

One linebacker that made a huge jump at the end of last season and continues to play well is sophomore Jarrad Davis. Davis was the only freshman linebacker that didn't come in early last year, yet he had the biggest impact of the four that were signed. Taylor says Davis is in for a big year.

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"Doing the same things he did last year," Taylor said of Davis. "He's cleaning up what he needed to work on from last year. We've sat back and watched film. We've seen what we needed to work on. So he's just cleaning that up and he's out there making a lot of plays. So be looking for Jarrad Davis next year."

Morrison chimed in on the budding sophomore as well.

"I mean he's very physical," Morrison said of Davis. "We're not the same personality-wise. He's a quiet guy. But we're both very physical and we've still got a lot to learn, both of us.

"He is able to get coached. A lot of people could come in, they get coached hard and they just crumble. So coach is on him a lot now because they know how good he could be."

Linebackers see vast improvement on offense

While Florida did need to shore up some things on defense a year ago, it was the offense that faltered to a point that led to a 4-8 season. A new coordinator and scheme has the spirits high right now and that enthusiasm has carried over to the defense that needs the other side of the ball to succeed.

"A lot more discipline, defensive-wise," Taylor said of what the new Kurt Roper style offense is forcing on them. "You have to have a lot better eye control, knowing your assignment, knowing where your guy is going and being there. Being there when he's getting there because if you're not, he can just turn up-field and get yards on you. So we're trying to minimize the yards that they're getting on us in practice."

It is a different style of running game as well and it has forced how the defense prepares there as well.

"More of a zone scheme," Taylor said. "So we're just trying to simplify it. Everybody take up their one gap, and when the ball pops in their gap, make the play. D-linemen are doing a good job of keeping the O-linemen off of us. We've been really clean and free. So we just want to carry that over and keep going."

Taylor notices how the offense is designed to get the play makers in space, much more than the version Florida ran in 2013.

"They can take advantage of spacing teams out and getting them in open space and making them miss tackles and stuff," he said. "That'd be key. And it's even better for us working on our open-field tackling and how we're going to play in space."

"Coach told us the other day," Morrison added. "He said, ‘We've been in this defense for four years. Offense has been in it for four days.' So of course they're not going to be flying right away, but it's coming along. I like what I'm seeing from the offense."

Taylor has noticed a few guys that are making big strides early this spring.

"Demarcus (Robinson) is a freak," Taylor said. "Some of the stuff he can do is crazy. Mack Brown running the rock, though, I tell him. I say that (a lot). (Kelvin Taylor) is (stepping up). Everybody is really picking up the scheme and able to make plays in it. Quinton Dunbar is making a lot of plays. I think if you've got the ball in your hands in this offense, you can make plays."

Morrison also believes this offense will help the Gator defense in the long run. It is more in line with what Florida will face all season and so they will have practiced against it much more before seeing it in games.

"Well we (went) against our offense last year, it was more of a power run game," Morrison said. "So that only helps us against LSU, Georgia, teams like that. This offense we're running now, we see this mostly every week. So that's preparing us better for what we see in the SEC since a lot of these teams are spread teams."

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