The Florida Gators entered their spring practice with a number of questions on defense after losing a number of marquee players to the NFL, including middle linebacker Jon Bostic. His decision left a massive hole at middle linebacker, but the uber-talented Antonio Morrison will slide over to the middle from his outside linebacker spot and be one the answers for the Gators’ restocked defense.
Morrison is now officially the team’s starting middle linebacker and after starting three games last year at outside linebacker when Jelani Jenkins missed time to injury, he gained invaluable experience that will pay immediate dividends this season. He will be asked to take on a bigger leadership role and the sensational sophomore will have no problems excelling there.
I had the opportunity to see Morrison star for Bolingbrook high school in Illinois as one of the nation’s top high school linebacker recruits, and he made plays all over the field.
He has natural leadership skills and is one of the hardest-working players in practice, often showcasing the intensity often reserved for Saturdays. He has incredible instincts and was able to snuff out plays in the backfield and was one of the more violent tacklers in the nation as an undersized linebacker.
Morrison played last season at 216 pounds, and could be checking in at about 235-pounds when the season kicks off in less than five months. His added bulk has not diminished his speed, and the tackling power that he’s famous for will be even more devastating with the increased strength and power he’s gained.
I love this quote from Florida linebackers coach, D.J. Durkin, made last year to Michael DiRocco from GatorNation on ESPN.com when he got his first glimpse of what Morrison was capable of as a true freshman.
“He made it very clear that he likes hitting people … we like people who like hitting people on defense. He made that statement very clear early on. The players recognized it. The coaches recognized it. We knew we had something there.”
Morrison has the ability, determination and coaching staff to develop into the best linebacker in the conference, and it may be as early as this season that he lives up to that lofty billing.