Trattou Must Lead and Learn a New Role

Is it too much to ask for your leaders to also learn a new role on your team? That is exactly what is being expected from senior defensive end Justin Trattou as he looks to replace the departed Carlos Dunlap an expected first round pick in the NFL draft next month. Not only is he making a big move himself, but Trattou is going to have to take some young players and help mold them in 2010.

Any coach would love to have a savvy veteran along the lines of scrimmage in a college football game that sees player turnover so often. Justin Trattou is just that for the Florida Gators and has played a ton of football in his time on campus.

Last season, Trattou spent a great deal of time playing the nose tackle in a three man front on passing situations. His motor and quickness to go along with his good size was a great compliment to the two defensive ends that will be drafted in the NFL in April.

Now Trattou will have to adjust to a position he is familiar with, but not as a full time position. Along those lines, he is busy trying to make him better as the strong side defensive end.

"I have been playing every game since my freshman year, it's just a different role for me," Trattou told the media gathered after practice on Friday. "Instead of playing on the inside on passing downs, I am full time at defensive end, so that is what I am working on out here now.

In fact, Trattou has played a lot at end, but an injury in the middle of the year caused him to move inside where he could be most effective and still play with a torn bicep muscle. Now that has healed and it is a whole new ball game.

"Right after I hurt my arm I completely stayed inside, so now that I am back in the swing of things I am working hard on my pass rush," he said.

Gone this season are Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham, Florida's two starting defensive ends from a year ago. They certainly were a talented duo, but Trattou can't sit around and worry about the loss, he has to get after it and keep after it this spring.

"They are all great players and everyone has their own style," Trattou said of all the talented seniors and juniors Florida lost before this season. "Personally I am just going to go out there and try and win every battle."

Trattou and sophomore starting nose tackle Omar Hunter have been pushing each other since the end of the Sugar Bowl in January.

"I trained with Omar the whole offseason and we pushed each other real hard," Trattou said. "I think he is going to have a great year...he is faster and in better shape than he has ever been and I think he is going to do great."

With both ends having to be replaced from last season, the Gators are going to be looking for a little more push from the inside to offset the losses. Hunter is back and so is fellow starter Jaye Howard. The Gators actually have their top five defensive tackles back, but the other three have all been out the entire spring due to injury.

"Our defensive tackles are going to be really deep once we get guys like Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders, and Brandon Antwine back," Trattou said. "Once they get back it will be one of the deepest positions on the team."

Trattou isn't going to short change the current defensive line. Younger guys like William green, Kedric Johnson, Lerentee McCray and a couple of incoming freshmen will be mixed in with himself and senior end Duke Lemmens to try and form an outside pass rush that will live up to previous standards.

"It's a different group, but we have a lot of talented guys," Trattou said. "We are working real hard and that is our thing right now. We want to out work everyone else and be the best team that we can.

"There are a lot of young guys that haven't played yet that are real talented, I am excited to see what they can do on the field this year. I love working with them every day and they are doing a great job themselves."

Trattou knows that he will be counted on to bring leadership to a group that will definitely need it. He is ready for that assignment.

"I am one of the more experienced guys on the team and going into my senior year, it's my time to lead these guys," he said.

Fightin Gators Top Stories