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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Freshmen put names in record book on opening day

Some players go their entire career without ever breaking into the history books.

Gators offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey and defensive back Joe Haden did it within the first second of stepping onto Florida field.

For the first time in school history, UF started two true freshmen on opening day in its 49-3 victory against Western Kentucky.

Pouncey became the first true freshman to start at offensive guard while Haden was the first true freshman to start at cornerback on opening day.

"That's pretty intense," Haden said. "I tried calling my dad, but I didn't have service on my phone."

Pouncey was implemented into the offensive line Wednesday after senior Phil Trautwein suffered a stress fracture in his right foot Wednesday.

Meyer said after the game there is a possibility Trautwein is done for the season, and if that is the case, Pouncey should continue to see playing time.

"(Pouncey) played well," Meyer said. "He's one of the best freshman offensive linemen I?ve ever seen."

Knowing that he would be starting, Pouncey said he stayed up late - sometimes after midnight - going over plays with his roommate, redshirt senior Carlton Medder.

The extra study time paid off because Pouncey said he felt comfortable after the first series.

"I was like man, this is kind of easy," Pouncey said.

But for Haden, the transition from high school to college ball didn't come so easily.

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Western Kentucky won the toss and elected to receive the ball. At first, the Hilltoppers' offense had its way with the Gators' young defense, gaining 62 yards on nine plays.

"I was concerned," Haden said. "I was like, 'What's going on? I thought we had the plan.'"

Luckily for the freshmen, Western Kentucky proved to be more of a warm-up game, something that Haden was thankful for.

"For Tennessee, I just know I have to be on top of everything," said Haden referring to when the Gators will meet the Volunteers in less than two weeks. "I've got to get the freshman stuff out of the way now."

And that includes handling the atmosphere in the Swamp.

The duo was a little overwhelmed by the 90,086 in attendance, especially when it came to the noise level.

"I was talking to some of the players and they said, 'This is Western Kentucky. Just think how it's going to be against Tennessee,'" Haden said. "It's so much different from high school. In high school you can almost whisper and you'll hear the dude."

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