FALL CAMP: Jersey Boyz Getting it Done

As is usually the case the Florida Football team is dominated by players from the Sunshine State with solid representation throughout the Southeast. However, the success of the Gators in 2007 might also rest in some ways to a pair of guys from the Garden State of New Jersey.

Senior offensive tackle Phil Trautwein is one of the stalwarts up front for the Gators offensive line, while freshman Justin Trattou has been making an immediate impression with his efforts after just a few days of practice.

Trautwein is part of a remarkable transformation for the Gator blocking corps. Last year it was one of the most questioned units on the team after losing four starters from 2005. This time around the offensive line is one of the most experienced and deep groups on the squad. Florida returns four starters up front, and that is a key reason why people are expecting bigger things from the Gator offense this fall. I spoke with Trautwein about those topics and more.

LV: How do you feel about the team's preparation for the start of fall camp?

PT: We're ready. Today (Tuesday) was a tough day, but it was the first day in pads and you're always going to have the most mistakes. Every day we're going to try and get better, but we have to expect that the first day is not going to be perfect.

LV: A year ago at this time there was nothing but questions about the offensive line. Now you guys are one of the most experienced groups on the team. Is the mindset any different this year because of that?

PT: No, we still need to prove ourselves. We've had a lot of hype, but we need to come out here every day and show the coaches that we're ready. We still need to get better.

LV: Give me your assessment of the battle to see which guy will join the four returning starters on the line.

PT: Right now J-Watt (Jason Watkins) has done really well (at right tackle) and (Carlton) Medder is in at guard so we're looking good right there. If for some reason J-Watt can't do it and (Mo) Hurt decides to step up then we'll put Hurt in at guard but right now we feel like we're set.

LV: You've moved back and forth from left tackle to right tackle and back again. Does it make much of a difference in how you play based on where you line up?

PT: Not really except for having the right foot back, that's about it.

LV: Justin Trattou has joined the team this fall, so are you guys the new "Jersey Boyz"?

PT: Yeah, the kind of funny. I haven't really gone up against him, but I hope I do at least one time. He's a freshman so I don't get to see him much on the field, but we talk a lot and I try to help him try to get used to the heat and stuff.

As for Trattou, he's quietly going about his business of trying to challenge for playing time from day one. He says the chemistry with the freshmen on the defensive line is really good.

JT: Everyone out here is really a good guy. We spent the summer trying to get to know each other and I'm really looking forward to playing with everybody.

LV: How has the entire freshman class as a group gone about the process of bonding as Gators?

JT: Well I think through the summer workouts we've all become much tighter as a group. I see us clicking really well as a class.

LV: How are you coping with the Florida heat?

JT: Well, it's pretty hot in Jersey in the summer. It's not that big of a jump, but it's definitely an adjustment. They treat us well with all the water and stuff so we just gotta keep on playing.

LV: What do you have to do to be ready to play opening day?

JT: Just keep listening to the coaches, learn everything I can and work as hard as I can day in and day out. Every part of my game needs improvement.

The guys from up north are humble individuals, but they are important parts of the total picture for the Florida Gators. Trattou appears to have moved to the front of the line among the four freshmen defensive ends with Carlos Dunlap close behind. Trautwein is a reliable veteran presence on a deep, talented Gator offensive line.

Coming soon to a stadium near you, "The Jersey Boyz, Gator version".

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