Johnson's Versatility Paying Off

There are times when center Mike Pouncey comes to the line, points at some of his offensive linemen, and they know exactly what he's thinking. Florida's veteran offensive line is that close. They are comfortable enough around each other and confident in the scheme that the offensive linemen sometimes feel like they read each other's minds.

"You don't have to communicate as much," left guard Carl Johnson said. "We know the system and know the calls. Mike can just point at someone and we all four are thinking the same thing."

Johnson was a key cog at left guard in the past two seasons, and that is where he is expected to play this season. The redshirt senior has been forced to line up all over the offensive line because of injuries.

However, offensive line coach Steve Addazio preaches versatility. He wants to fit the best five offensive linemen onto the field, regardless of position.

"I wouldn't be as versatile as I am without it," Johnson said. "I just want to play all positions. I think it's good because you're diverse. If we're blessed enough to go to the next level, no one is saying you're going to be a guard or a center. Look at Maurkice Pouncey. He's with Pittsburgh playing center and guard. You've got to be diverse."

The offensive line came out of two-a-days with nagging injuries at left tackle. Matt Patchan and Xavier Nixon haven't practiced with contact in over a week, forcing linemen to move to positions they aren't comfortable with.

It doesn't make it easier with the scorching temperatures. Johnson maintained his weight around 342 pounds throughout camp, but it doesn't come without staying hydrated.

"You're going to lose nine pounds a practice easy," Johnson said. "You've got to stay hydrated. One gallon of water is five pounds. You've got to stay hydrated or you'll pass out."

Part of the key is keeping weight on through eating well. When the offensive line goes out for dinner, they make sure to do just that. But it's an unlikely face that Johnson considers the biggest eater of the group.

Freshman Ian Silberman came to campus in the spring needing to gain weight. With the amount of food he can eat in one sitting, Johnson doesn't understand how he isn't overweight. The freshman isn't only demanding praise at the dinner table.

"Ian is very impressive," Johnson said. "He's a big, strong guy. I wish I was that athletic my freshman year. He's going to have a tremendous career here."

The talk about Silberman has been loud since he was on campus for spring practice. Chaz Green came in the summer, but he didn't waste any time impressing the veterans.

"A lot of people don't talk about him, but to me… wow is all I can say," Johnson said. "With how strong he is, how he can move and how hard he blocks. His run technique is amazing."

The freshmen offensive linemen aren't needed to produce this season because of the depth at the position. The freshmen defensive lineman will be needed.

The group of freshmen has drawn reviews as being cocky and having a confident sense about them, but Johnson enjoys dealing with it. It drives him to improve the freshmen and make them better, which will help the team in the long run.

"You don't want to be shown up by a freshman," Johnson said. "At the same time, they're our teammates. We might need one of these freshmen against LSU or Tennessee. You don't want to beat up on them and tear down their confidence. You want to show your dominance but also be a great teammate. We embrace the young guys and tell them to lean on us if they're having a tough day. We need them to do that for us some day if we're having a tough day."

Head coach Urban Meyer said Monday that he is hitting the panic button because the team needs to begin improving quickly. He singled out the lack of proven wide receivers, and the inability for those players to stay healthy.

Johnson believes Andre Debose, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey will be three key playmakers. Deonte Thompson has been good in camp, but Johnson knows teams will double-team him. That's where the emergence of Carl Moore is important, and Johnson says he is "balling."

However, he does understand the sense of urgency around Coach Meyer.

"All coaches do," Johnson said. "That's their job. If I was in his shoes, I'd panic too."

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