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Saturday, June 15, 2024

UF offensive lineman Mike Pouncey transitioned to the defensive line this week at practice, and now it looks like he may have secured a starting job.

Pouncey said Wednesday that co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison told the true freshman he will likely start at nose guard against Vanderbilt.

"I'm going to play a lot Saturday," Pouncey said. "I think I'm starting."

Pouncey had been the backup for center Drew Miller before the switch.

The move was necessary after defensive tackle Javier Estopinan went down with a torn left ACL and is out for the season, almost completely depleting UF's defensive line.

Backup Terron Sanders will also miss several weeks with a left high ankle sprain.

Sophomore Brandon Antwine's lower back injury, which hospitalized him for 10 days in October, will likely keep him out for the remainder of the season.

Besides Pouncey, the Gators are considering using redshirt freshman Lawrence Marsh and freshmen Torrey Davis, Carlos Dunlap and Justin Trattou in the mix.

Pouncey was rated as the No. 7 offensive guard in the nation as a recruit, according to Scout.com.

The true freshman played defense minimally in high school, but he was willing to take on the new challenge when UF's coaching staff approached him about it.

"I was like, 'Let's do it.' Anything to help the team win," Pouncey said. "It shocked me, but I was ready."

Before fully committing to the job, Pouncey said he spoke to offensive line coach Steve Addazio about what was best for the team.

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Still, the offensive line hasn't let Pouncey off the hook so easily.

"The offensive line was mad at me 'cause I switched over," Pouncey said with a smile. "[They call me] traitor, just stuff like that."

At Wednesday's practice, Pouncey went up against his twin brother and UF's starting right guard, Maurkice, during pass rush drills and bested his brother twice.

For a defense that was already experiencing hard knocks, a line full of freshmen is not an ideal situation for UF's coaching staff, but the Gators will make do with what they have.

"The best thing you can do with young kids is turn them loose," Mattison said. "Just let them play with their God-given ability and anything you've taught them up to this point."

SAFETY PATROL: Freshman Major Wright will play Saturday at free safety, UF coach Urban Meyer said Wednesday.

Wright only played on special teams against Georgia after undergoing surgery for a broken thumb. He wore a modified, taped boxing glove to protect his hand during the game.

"I don't know if he's starting," Meyer said. "We haven't decided that yet. He's still got to play with a little bit of a club on his hand."

Meyer said if Wright doesn't start, senior Kyle Jackson likely will replace him again, but Dorian Munroe is also in the mix.

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