Gators Practicing Black Magic

No, Florida hasn't gone demonic or even paired up with the Gypsy Queen of New Orleans. They have their own source of "Black Magic", Ahmad Black. The strong safety from Lakeland got that nickname from assistant coach Vance Bedford after one of his early season interceptions last year and he's kept that moniker ever since.

The junior from Lakeland might have been the biggest single key to Florida's defensive resurgence last year. Florida entered the fall fairly confident in Major Wright at one safety spot but completely in the dark about what to expect at the other. Enter Ahmad Black who made a seamless transfer from backup corner to starting safety and had a great year. Black led the Gators with seven interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns. He finished fourth on the team with 59 tackles.

Black is excited about the potential for the 2009 defense with every starter back and he even welcomes the competition for his job from returning veteran Dorian Munroe and rookie Dee Finley. I talked with Black and the first thing I asked him about a one-armed interception he made in Saturday's scrimmage.

AB: "Oh I was just trying to do a little something, you know. We have to do anything we can possibly do to get the ball back to our offense."

LV: You did a great job of that with seven interceptions. How do you raise the bar in terms of what you want to accomplish this season?

AB: "Big plays help us win ball games and that's how we get back to the (BCS) National Title (Game). It's all about making plays."

LV: How does this team go about trying to regain the hunger and focus this spring after winning it all last year?

AB: "It's tough, but we know everyone wants a piece of them Gators so we have to go out there every day and grind and get better. There are still a lot of things this team can get better at."

LV: Talk about the competition at safety. A year ago there was maybe one starter and now you seem like you have four.

AB: "It's tough. We have a lot of good ball players out there who want to play and that's good for the team. There's no one selfish back there, and I appreciate that from everybody. They know they're gonna get their chance to get in and shine."

LV: Do you ever look at this defense and all the depth and wonder how the heck the coaches are going to find playing time for everybody?

AB: (laughing) "As long as we win I could care less. I don't have to be in every play. If we get a little time off, as long as we win it's okay."

LV: Tell me what you see in Dee Finley.

AB: "He's got a lot of great football in him. He's got to learn a lot of stuff. He's got to learn the defense a little bit better, but once he gets it down pat he's going to be good."

LV: What about the secondary overall? Is this a more confident group than it was a year ago at this time?

AB: "Everyone is trying to step it up back there. We have the main five guys including Will (Hill) back from last year that really played (well). We're just coming out here every day trying to make each other better."

The transformation of the Florida secondary from the weakest position on the team to arguably the strongest in just one year is one of the most remarkable things I've ever witness. Of course, there's no telling what amazing things happen when you use "Black Magic".

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