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Saturday, December 09, 2023

Converted center Mike Pouncey had a special visitor Friday night in his hotel room.

Coach Urban Meyer stopped by the newly appointed defensive lineman?s room to have a 15-minute chat with the freshman.

Meyer asked Pouncey to grow up fast and become a leader for the defense.

Never mind that he transitioned to the defensive side of the ball four days prior, or that the only time he ever played defense was during goal line situations in his senior year of at Lakeland High.

When Meyer told him to go hard against Vanderbilt, Pouncey simply replied, BYes, sir.C

But after the coach left, Pouncey?s nerves prevented him from sleeping. He only managed six hours before UF's 49-22 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday.

BI was like, everything?s on me,C Pouncey said. BI was studying my plays, studying what gaps I had to be in. I was just thinking about how much this game mattered to the team.C

But UF?s coaching staff never had a doubt that Pouncey could handle a new role on the team.

Meyer approached the freshman after Monday?s practice to see if he would be interested in stepping in for the depleted defensive line. Pouncey accepted the challenge.

BWhat happened in practice, they saw him blowing everybody up coming off the football, and everybody went 'Wow,?C co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. BWe haven?t had that since maybe Marcus Thomas and Ray (McDonald) were in there.C

Pouncey impressed the coaches so much that he started at nose tackle Saturday. Although he only finished with two tackles, Meyer credited the freshman?s enthusiasm for lifting the defense?s quality of play.

BThat?s hard to imagine that just occurred, but that tells you a little bit about what kind of family the Pounceys are, and what kind of a person Michael is,C Meyer said. BHe brought instant energy to our defense.C

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Vanderbilt tried to expose Pouncey?s inexperience early, but he didn?t cave. He pushed and shoved right back.

BThey tested me,C Pouncey said. BI just went hard. Coach told me and Derrick (Harvey) all week that they were going to try to run to our side, so we were ready for it.C

Meyer said he wasn?t sure if Pouncey will continue to play defense during his career at UF, but the freshman will definitely continue to play the remainder of the year.

Pouncey?s defensive teammates are more than happy to welcome him to their side.

BHe?s always ready to go, full speed, 100 percent,C cornerback Joe Haden said. BHe?ll just run to the ball, wherever it?s at. If Pouncey can do it, then we got to go.C

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