Garcia excels after offseason transition

Some players fight the idea of a position change, but when the Florida staff approached Max Garcia about playing center this year, there was no hesitation.

The Florida coaches and players rave about what a team player Garcia has been since he transferred from Maryland, and he showed that with his unselfishness this offseason. Garcia played tackle and guard at Florida during the 2013 season, moving around to different spots as multiple offensive linemen went down with injuries.

Jonatthan Harrison graduated following last season and has started multiple games for the Indianapolis Colts this year, but his departure left a hole with no obvious candidate to replace him. Garcia was successful at all positions last year and the coaches thought he had the mental capacity to handle the move.

It looks like a great decision now, as Florida coach Will Muschamp raved about what his senior center has done for the offense.

“Max is playing as well as any center in the country,” Muschamp said. “He's playing really good football. He makes all the calls for us up front and is a very calming part of what we're trying to do. I think he's playing very well.”

It’s not a glamorous position that rarely gets the praise. The center is usually only noticed when he has a bad snap, and that was a big concern for the staff in the spring. Garcia had never snapped at all before spring practice, and it looked like it during the first few weeks.

Snaps went over the head of the quarterback and sometimes rolled to them. After it continued to happen weeks into the spring, the Florida coaches started to funnel other players into the center spot just in case Garcia couldn’t figure it out.

Garcia wasn’t going to let the issue keep him from playing the position the team needed him at the most. He put in a lot of extra work on the field and in the film room until snapping felt natural and wasn’t a problem.

"I had a few doubts just because I hadn’t played the position and I was only going to get a few months to prepare for it, so I didn't know how well I was going to do, how well I was going to be able to produce at that position,” Max Garcia said. “I knew I was a good player, but I just didn't know how I would play at center. Working with Coach Summers and the encouragement of my teammates, I've been able to be successful."

His natural leadership abilities made Garcia a great fit at center. He’s able to make the right calls and get the offense on the same page while commanding what the Florida offense is doing. That’s especially important with freshman quarterback Treon Harris taking over the reigns to the offense.

"That's the toughest position to play on the offensive line, obviously with what you have to do call-wise but then stepping and being able to generate power after a snap,” Muschamp said. “He has done it extremely well. He sees it in practice every day. Max is a really intelligent young man, a really smart, complete team guy and totally bought into what we need to do to be successful.”

Snaps are now natural for Garcia, and it has allowed him to spend more time focusing on what the opposing defense is doing. Because of that, it’s allowing Garcia to take control of the offensive line and continue to lead the unit.

"As a center, you have to be the quarterback of the offensive line,” Garcia said. Communicating and getting everyone on the same page, that's the most critical part of playing center.”


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