Ryan Stamper Is Indispensable

If you started listing the best defensive players on the Gator football team you'd probably start with Brandon Spikes and quickly work your way through Joe Haden, Jermaine Cunningham, Carlos Dunlap and maybe Major Wright. While I wouldn't argue about that list, perhaps the most valuable guy on that Gator "D" isn't on it.

Ryan Stamper has become the guy the Gators pretty much can't do without.

The fourth year junior from Jacksonville is not even an official "starter" in the Florida linebacker corps. That recognition goes to Spikes, Dustin Doe and A.J. Jones. But don't tell the Gator coaches or players that Stamper isn't a starter. He's the number one backup at all three positions and seemingly spends more time on the field than the guys "ahead" of him. And he's doing all that despite a broken thumb injury he suffered in the first half of the opener against Hawaii.

Stamper will be in a cast for another month or so, but unlike most guys playing with a cast, he's not really looking forward to getting it off.

"I kind of feel comfortable playing with it now, and when I get it off my wrist, it's going to be real stiff and real skinny. I'm probably not going to be able to do the things I'm doing now. It would probably be better to keep it on."

Florida coaches have heaped praise on Stamper as a guy who can play any position and knows where all 11 players are supposed to be on the field at any time. He takes a lot of pride in being able to help the team in any way he's needed.

"This is my fourth year here and just watching, listening and watching film just got me to learn all three linebacker positions. Sometimes I go in at Mike, sometimes I go in at Will and sometimes I go in at Sam just on my own so I can get better at all three positions."

I asked Stamper how it feels to be a guy the coaches praise for his ability to go in at any position.

"It feels real good. Miami practice, to tell you the truth I went through all the practices at Sam, I didn't really practice at Will. But from the previous practices at Will when Doe went down I went in and knew what to do."

I also asked the Gator junior if he worried at all about the curse of versatility that might keep him from ever nailing down one position.

"Not really because it feels good to be the guy who can come in at any position at any point. If it ever came to the point where I have to start, I'll do it. It just feels good to kind of play all three. I like all three linebacker positions. People ask me on campus all the time, "what position do you play". And I say linebacker and they say. "Which one" and I say all three."

If you could wave a magic wand and own one of the three positions, which is the one that you could excel at?

"I really don't know. I can't pick one. I just like going into the game at any one, that's good for me."

Stamper has been credited with seven tackles in the first two games, tying him for fifth best on the Florida team. His versatility is a huge bonus for a linebacking unit that is sorely lacking in depth. He may not be listed first at any position on the depth chart, so just think of him as the Gators' 12th defensive starter.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel

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