VETTEL: One on One with Channing Crowder

While 60-some members of the '04 Gator Football Team are making the adjustment to a new coaching staff and a new way of doing things, Channing Crowder is a playful observer. Crowder is focused not on avoiding the dreaded "Pit" but instead watching his former teammates try to impress the Gator staff, particularly Coach Urban Meyer. I spoke at length with Channing and in the first part of the conversation we get his impression of the new Florida Coach and the possibilities for the 2005 Gators.

(Part one of a two-part series)

LV: Channing, what's your impression of Urban Meyer?

CC: He's a great guy. The guys who are gone like me and Ciatrick and guys that are working out he tries to get us involved. I love him. You know I talked with him before I decided to come out and he said he'd support me either way so we have a really good relationship.

LV: We've seen so many Ex-Gators around this spring, more than I can ever remember. Even though you're a very recent ex-Gator how important is it that Coach Meyer is reaching out to guys who played for Florida no matter what coach he played for?

CC: Oh, it's great. It's a good situation and he's doing a great job with it. He told us we're welcome to work out with Coach Marotti. In fact he even writes us workouts. He's really reaching out to us and like it's said, once you're a Gator you're always a Gator.

LV: What's it like watching practice? You might have seen one or two option plays a day in the past, but these guys have to defend the option every snap. How hard is that for the linebackers to deal with?

CC: I was just thinking yesterday, I hate offenses like that. I'm an old school nasty kind of guy. I want to see two tight ends, a fullback, tailback, and straight down at you and let's see who the better man is. But football is going to that wide-open spread attack type stuff and everyone has to get used to it. It's going to work. It's tricky and it's misleading and things develop slow so you can't be too aggressive but you can't sit back too much either or they're going to pick you apart. It worked for him at Bowling Green and it worked for him at Utah. I'm hoping, and I'm pretty sure it's going to work for him here, too.

LV: Watching the linebackers Saturday it seemed like Brian Crum is starting to put things together. Do you agree with that and can Brian really help this defense?

CC: Oh yeah, he can help it. We're real good friends and hang out all the time. You know everyone made a big deal about us doing the hog hunting and stuff. He just has to get comfortable in a position. He played safety at Camden County High School and at Florida he went to tight end, then linebacker, and then back to tight end and now back to linebacker. All that adjusting makes it tough to get comfortable at one position. Now the coaches have told him he's going to be a linebacker and he's a smart guy so he's making the adjustment. Coach Strong called me the other day and told me, "your buddy's balling" so I had to come check him out.

LV: Would you agree that Brian seems more comfortable than he has at any point in his Gator career?

CC: Oh yeah, by far. I talked with him yesterday and we talked about that a little bit and jumping around it's tough to get confidence. I was blessed that I never had to deal with that I was always a linebacker, but his situation was kinda funny. But now things are starting to work out for him and I'm really happy for him.

LV: The Gators don't have a lot of guys at linebacker, are there enough guys to get the job done?

CC: Oh yeah the guys who are there can definitely get the job done. Without injury we'll be set at linebacker. Plus, what did they sign four or five guys this year? They may need those guys to step up but without injury will hold out. Siler did a great job last year and he's looking good. Earl, I've been saying all along is a way better athlete than I'll ever be, probably the best athlete whenever he's on the field. He's amazing and he'll make plays all over this year. Todd is a solid player and he's been killing people. He's not the fastest man in the world but he's gonna make some plays for you. And with Brian coming on they'll be a pretty good group.

LV: When you watch the defense now the Gators are playing a lot more press coverage and turning guys loose with blitzes from every angle. Do you ever look at that and say, "man why couldn't they turn me loose like that"?

CC: Yeah, I was just talking with Coach Strong and they send a man on just about every play. I went out to practice and they really work at all these blitzes and twists; all these things to try and get guys open so playmakers can make plays. That's what you need in a defense, and I wish I could have been out there some of those plays. If it was up to me I'd been blitzing myself every play and Id love to be out there now. I made the decision and I'm happy with my decision, but I do look out there and think I coulda done that or I coulda done this. It's fun to watch, a lot of fun.

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VETTEL'S TAKE: Channing Crowder is still just a big kid and there's a significant part of him that wishes he was still playing in Orange and Blue. But he's getting ready to move on to the next phase of his life. Tomorrow we'll fill you in on the process he's going through, the teams that are showing the most interest and what it's like to have some people saying he's going in the middle of round one and others say he might fall to round three.


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