Butler's hustle pays off with big plays

Just as Bubba Caldwell was setting up one last tackler, ready to flip the switch on the afterburners if necessary to try to outrun that one last Arkansas defender who stood between him and his first collegiate touchdown, Lance Butler did what Lance Butler has been doing a lot of lately. Instead of shifting into that extra gear or relying on a dipsy-do move to shake the tackler, Caldwell hesitated just a moment, long enough for Butler to fly past him to take out the defender...

...The sprint to the end zone to complete the 61-yard play was made in cruise control.

Butler is a 6-7, 300-pound offensive guard. Guards are supposed to block but it's not too often that someone that big is running full speed 25 yards downfield to get in the final block to spring a sub-r.r sprinter for a touchdown.

"We (offensive linemen) have to hit the big guys all the time so it's nice to get downfield to hit the little guys," said Butler, a fourth-year junior from Lexington, North Carolina. "A fumble or one more block can get us a touchdown. The ball's going to be down there, so you might as well run and be a part of the play.

"I'm always trying to get in the right place. If I can hustle and get in front, the guys we have are so good they can make something happen. I just try to get between them and a defender because that helps them make plays."

Being a part of the play when it's well past the line of scrimmage has become a regular occurrence for Butler, whose hard work and dedication has made him a reliable teammate whose hustle provides inspiration for the rest of the team.

"He's a big guy but he's a hustler who wants to see us make plays," said Caldwell, who also had four catches for 53 yards in Florida's 45-30 victory over the Razorbacks. "He's a guy who always does what he has to do for the team. He went out there and made a block for me. I thanked him for it!"

Zook congratulates Caldwell whose touchdown was aided by Butler.

Coach Ron Zook noted that Butler "threw a real big block on the reverse. You got a big 300-pound guy running down there. A defensive back? He's in trouble!"

The big block to spring Caldwell was one of three big plays for Butler on this day when the Gators would power to a big lead, then make plays late in the fourth quarter to squelch an Arkansas rally. Butler would also dive on a fumble 33 yards downfield to save a touchdown drive and he would make the final block to spring Ciatrick Fason for a three-yard touchdown run.

The fumble recovery was the second time he came up big on a play involving Caldwell. With Florida leading 14-7 in the second quarter, quarterback Chris Leak found Caldwell open in the middle on a crossing pattern. At the Arkansas 37, Caldwell took a hit and coughed up the football, but Butler saved the day by diving on the loose ball at the Arkansas 34. On the next play, Leak found Dallas Baker open on a post pattern in the end zone for a touchdown that would help the Gators open up a 21-7 lead.

"Just hustling pays off," said Butler. "I was just running down the field trying to help. I saw the football laying out there and I hopped on it."

On the Fason touchdown, Butler pulled from his left guard position and kicked out the Arkansas defender, allowing C4 to squirt into the end zone with 3:07 remaining in the half.

All in all, it was a good day for Butler, who earned the most improved player award in the Orange and Blue spring game. Now starting his second year at guard after spending his redshirt and freshman years at offensive tackle, Butler has become a familiar sight for Gator fans, leading sweeps, getting out in front on screen passes and never giving up on a play once it's past the line of scrimmage.

He's very comfortable now with the offensive line schemes, finds it easy to flip-flop from one side of the line to the other, and can even fill in at either offensive tackle position if called upon.

"I can play both guard or tackle," he said. "I'm just glad I'm in the top five linemen so I can get out there. I love playing. Playing either side doesn't bother me anymore, either. Flipping the side really did bother me before.

"Actually, it's pretty simple. Just flip it in your head and remember the numbers are different on each side of the line. Most of us can do it now. We're older guys who've been doing this for a couple of years now, so it's not a big deal to flip sides or even to switch positions. We're all veteran guys and we all know what to do. We have six or seven guys who can really do the job and a lot of us can play either side or another position so it helps us to do the job."

Butler feels the Gators are starting to find what it takes to be consistent throughout the game, that putting it all together is just a matter of time.

"We need to get better at that and we have to close people out once we've got them down," he said. "We're going to work hard on closing games because if we can do that, we have a lot of potential to become a great team.

"Today we played well in the first half like we did last year, then we came out in the second half and stubbed our toes a few times. We'll get past that. We finished the game well."

One thing that helped the Gators withstand the Arkansas rally which saw the Razorbacks reel off 23 straight points to close Florida's once formidable lead to 38-30 was the way Zook prepared the team all week.

"Coach Zook said don't worry about the future. Don't worry about the past. Just focus on now. We weren't thinking ‘here we go again' but we were thinking about just making the play right now. We knew we were going to make a play."

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