SPRING: Q and A with Billy Latsko

With the running back situation up in the air once again this off-season, the Gators are searching for a much-needed spark in their ground game. Early injuries have plagued Florida's artillery of running backs, and to fill the need, Coach Meyer has moved fullback Billy Latsko to a more prominent tailback position. Latsko has recently been getting a boatload of carries and is taking advantage of every opportunity thrown his way.

On Saturday, when Coach Meyer and staff saw Latsko bulldozing through the defense, it became quite obvious that they're on to something here.

JR: So Billy, how are you enjoying tailback?

BL: Oh I'm loving it. I'm getting the ball, running the rock pretty good right now. It's a lot of transition right now, though, learning the plays and stuff. It's going real well right now though for me.

JR: Do you think you'll stay there all season? Is that the plan?

BL: No, I don't think so at all. I just think the point of all this is to see what I can do with the ball. This will maybe open up our offense a little more.

JR: Did you ever think it would move in this direction when Coach Meyer originally didn't even want to use the fullback in this offense?

BL: Well he moved me over to linebacker, and that kinda disappointed me. I was like 'whatever I can do to help the team.' I really didn't think they'd move me back to fullback, so I was working hard at linebacker. When they did, it was a good surprise.

JR: I bet you never would have thought you might be getting any of the glory when you walked on here...

BL: I walked on planning on maybe contributing on special teams. I always work hard and try to be the best that I can be, but I didn't expect this much.

JR: Do you feel like there's a good chance you'll be getting a lot of touches this fall?

BL: Oh yeah. Last year, I got a few touches in the passing game, running flat routes and stuff. And two years ago with Zook, they handed me the ball off maybe five times throughout the season. But it just opens up our offense a little more, and I'm just there to do whatever I can.

JR: How much do you think they're going to use you in the passing game? I noticed you lining up wide a few times today...

BL: I'm not sure with that. Most of the time when I'm lining up wide, I'm just running a protection release. But obviously sometimes if it opens up out there the quarterback will give it to us backs.

JR: What's it like practicing with guys like Siler out there on defense? He was all over the place today.

BL: Oh, it's fun. I love going against people that give you good competition. It always helps you get better. He made a few really big plays and hits today.

JR: Talk a little more about that transition from fullback to tailback, as far as the playbook goes. Do you have to learn the playbook all over again, or is it a lot easier since you've already been in the backfield?

BL: Well they put in a couple of new packages, so that was new for everyone. But for the most part, as a fullback, I already know most of the running plays. It's just a few plays here and there that I have to learn for the fullback, because I gotta know both of them. And for the tailback, it's just learning the little things that he does throughout the play. But with me coming from fullback it definitely helps out.

JR: You've been known for your dedication on the football field to this team, and when they were moving you around, we never heard you complain and you always gave 100%. How tough was that for you when they were moving you around and putting you at a position you didn't want to play? A lot of players might have given a little less.

BL: Well, I grew up here in this town, and I love the Gators. Anything I could do to help the team, I was going to do. So if they needed me at linebacker, you know maybe I wasn't what they had hoped for or something like that. But I'm going to do what I can do.

Are you enjoying where you're at right now...playing tailback?

BL: Oh yeah, definitely. It's a lot of fun.

JR: Is it a lot more physically demanding for you to get so many touches versus throwing some blocks here and there?

BL: Oh yeah, you're hitting and getting hit by people a lot more. So you're a lot more sore. You've got bruises all over your arms from carrying the ball and peoples' helmets hitting you. So in that aspect it is. But as a fullback, that's where the headaches come because you're hitting with your face, your neck and your shoulders. So they're both very tough physical positions.

Billy has one of the nicest, easy-going personalities on the team when you talk to him off-the-field. Much like Siler, you'd have no idea he does such damage when he puts that helmet on. Latsko is a team player. He's got a winning attitude, and it's finally paying off for this young man. On Saturday, he raised a few eyebrows multiple times when the ball was given to him on a draw or an option pitch inside. He just plows through linemen. Playing the fullback position, Latsko punishes the defense when he runs and possesses that tough, smash-mouth attitude. He brings a much needed warrior-like toughness to the running game, and hopefully will motivate the others to compete on a higher level.

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