Gilbert Preparing for Last Go Around

It took half a season and a position change to get Marcus Gilbert settled down on the offensive line at Florida in 2009, but once he was moved to right tackle it was a natural fit. Now a staple and most likely a fixture for 2010, Gilbert enters his senior season with anticipation and a little angst. Nevertheless, he knows he has to show his leadership for a group of young guys right behind him.

The future for Florida right tackle Marcus Gilbert looks great. A massive lineman with good feet and long arms that NFL coaches fawn over in their evaluations of offensive linemen, Gilbert has already been projected by some to go high in next year's NFL draft. That is something that is certainly in the back of his mind, but playing out his final year in a Gator uniform is of the utmost importance to him.

"I was thinking about it the whole summer," Gilbert said about his final season as a Gator. "I am kind of excited and kind of nervous because I don't know what is going to happen after this. For the most part it is going to be an emotional ride."

Gilbert met with the media on Thursday and after a really good first day of practice, he believes this offensive line unit can be the best in college football.

"We can be as good as we want," he said. "It all started today and we have to just keep building on it. I think we can be the best in the country. We have the potential, if everything works out good and we stay healthy we can be the best offensive line in the country."

One exciting thing for Gilbert is that maybe for the first time in his career, the entire offensive line is healthy enough to participate in all the drills. It should take a little load off of them in all the heat when they can split up some reps in practice.

"Everybody is out there practicing…a first," he said of a full offensive line unit. "It kind of takes a beating off of the old guys."

Included in the healthy players is a trio of veteran types that all missed a significant amount of time in the spring due to injuries. Maurice Hurt and James Wilson will be battling for the right guard spot along with freshman Jon Halapio. Wilson and Hurt are guys that have started before but have had injury prone careers.

Matt Patchan is back with a vengeance after a terrible knee injury during the 2009 season. Gilbert said Patchan will really push incumbent starter Xavier Nixon at left tackle.

"He was down when he got hurt because he wanted to be a starting lineman," Gilbert said of Patchan. "He didn't think he was going to be able to recover as fast as he did. Now that he is back I think he will take advantage of it. He and Xavier are sharing first team."

He is one of the old guys and because of that he knows he has to help the younger guns to be ready if he needs to come out of the game or just whenever they are needed in the future. Gilbert has really accepted that role as a mentor.

"My goals include being a better leader and prepare the young guys behind me to step up and be ready to play this year," he said. "Chaz Green, Ian Silberman, and Kyle Koehne, I need to get them ready in case something goes down and they can step in and be ready to go."

Gilbert will have a new quarterback to protect this year, one with a different style that will sit in the pocket. That matters little to Gilbert who said, "It's the same thing, take care of the quarterback." He thinks junior John Brantley will be a great one for the Gators this year.

"Brantley will be fine," he said. "The first couple of games he will have to get in a rhythm because he hasn't started in a game. We have a lot of guys coming back to help with his comfort in that situation."

Gilbert appreciates the initiative that Brantley has taken to try and be a leader of the offense. Things like getting after guys to work out and just the camaraderie with his offensive teammates goes a long way.

"He is getting guys out to workouts," he said. "Getting guys to go through plays and extra stuff trying to get us to be as good as we can. I think he will do a hell of a job for us this year."

Accountability is the theme for this team, but a lot of the upperclassmen have taken it upon themselves to push the younger guys and keep them focused. These are the things that help win championships.
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