Ciatrick Fason - the difference maker this season

Ciatrick Fason is going to be a difference maker for the Florida Gators football team this year. The junior from Jacksonville will be counted on to help the Gators return to lost glory and has come a long way since his arrival in 2002. Fason is more than just a running back, however. He's the consummate teammate.

Having two seasons under his belt, Fason is almost the elder statesman on the offense. "This year, because I am an older player, I have to go out there and lead by example. And that is by doing what I have to do on the field. Hopefully the young guys will follow. In the past I was one of the young guys and following by Ran and E.G."

The consummate team player, he doesn't worry about being the starter for the Gators. He and back-up DeShawn Wynn are good friends on and off the field. "Starting is important but not as much as most people think it is. We are just trying to go out there and get a victory and when either one of us gets the opportunity with the ball; we have to do the best with it. DeShawn is a hell of a running back. You never can be too comfortable with being the number one guy going into one week, because the next week he could be the number one guy. So you have to stay up on your heels, and we are both just glad to be able to go out and showcase our skills."

One of the top subjects back in the off-season was the progress of the offensive line. Fason doesn't hold back in his praise of the big hosses that lead the way up-front. "This is the best offensive line I ever played behind. Last year we had Max Starks and Shannon Snell, this year they are all real quick off the ball. Take Lance Butler, he's like the energizer bunny; he just keeps going and going. Mike Degory is the leader of the group; as long as he is helping everything is going to be alright. They love running down the field blocking. Some days in pads I can break out and they ask for the ball so I turn around and give it to them, because I know they are hustling too. That's what I like about this offensive line. They try and get it, they hustle. It's like they are extra running backs on the field, but they block more."

One of the large facets of the game we anticipate that the Gators will be utilizing this year is throwing the ball to the back out of the backfield. It was used prominently in the pre-season and the quarterbacks really seem to be finding the uncovered backs in the flat. Fason told us of his progression in this area of his game. "I feel like I came a long way with catching the ball after my freshman year. Chris Leak, he likes to throw to the running backs a lot. When he came here he helped me a lot in the off-season, he would throw to me a lot and it built up my confidence. When I go into a game, I feel like no one can stop me, especially when I'm freed up with only a linebacker. I feel like I can be a good threat catching the ball out of the backfield. That's the same for all of our running backs, as much as he throws to us in practice; it makes us more comfortable in games."

What about the anticipation of a new season? "We are just ready to run out of that tunnel in front of 90,000, that's the hypest part of the game. We just have to go out there and prove ourselves each week and we are looking to do that starting opening day."

Ciatrick Fason will turn heads this year - both those in the stands and those that try to tackle him. He remains one of the real leaders of the team and it will show on the field when game day finally arrives in Gainesville this Saturday afternoon.

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