Gators' Fred Johnson has a new mindset

Junior offensive lineman Fred Johnson finds himself in a battle for playing time or starting time on the offensive line at Florida. It wasn’t supposed to be like that when he signed on with the Gators a little more than two years ago, but Johnson has made some personal changes and feels like things are coming together for him and the entire line.

Physical ability has never been an issue for Fred Johnson. He’s got the length and the muscle that the Florida offense needs to be successful. He has as much athletic ability as anyone on the offensive line at Florida. But all of that doesn’t matter if his head isn’t screwed on straight.

One thing that Johnson has learned recently is that the fight for playing time is fierce and he has to maintain a high level of intensity.

"It's a competition every day,” Johnson said shortly after the Gators spring game concluded last week. “Coach Davis said nobody is set in stone, and every day you go out there and fight for your position and it's really a battle. I was with the 1s today, I was with the 2s today. He said you've just got to fight for what's yours and go out every day and show what you've got to prove."

Johnson is working hard to get in the starting lineup when the season starts. The changes he has made in the way he approaches things have a chance to lead to big things.

"It's important to me,” he said about getting a starting job. “It's been important to me since freshman year. Freshman year I was frustrated because I didn't know the assignments and stuff like that. I take that on myself not being diligent in the study room or going to talk to coaches and stuff, but this year it means everything for me to go out and show everybody I can be a factor and I can show my skills and stuff like that."

One of the biggest things that Jim McElwain wanted for his squad at the conclusion of last season was for the offensive line to be more aggressive and physical in their play. He made the move to bring in Brad Davis to coach the offensive line, a move that appears to have been justified given the perceived change in the way they do things up front this spring.

"I feel like we did what we came to do,” Johnson said about the spring. “What coach Davis wanted us doing was to improve our physicality and come off the ball and be more locked in on our assignments and our technique and stuff. So I feel like we really improved, but we're not where we can nearly be at yet.

“Just locked in our assignments basically and staying focused throughout the whole game. In the spring you can see some mental mistakes -- there were some, there was a little bit -- but it's things that we know and just get lost to us in the heat of the game.

“It's really us going out doing the same things that we've been doing and trying to execute at a high level and sometimes things go wrong because we try to be perfect and stuff like that. You've got to take all things into consideration when you think about a play and you go to execute."

The Florida offensive line is supposed to take a big step forward in 2017. Fred Johnson is expecting to be a big part of that positive move forward.




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