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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Apparently, some athletes are bred in just two days.

That's how long converted offensive lineman Mike Pouncey had to practice with the defense before making his debut at defensive tackle against Vanderbilt.

On Monday, Coach Urban Meyer announced that Pouncey was named to his "Champions Club" - a weekly honor awarded to players based on game performance.

"The big dude went over there and had every bit of two days of practice before he started his first game on defense," Meyer said. "Can't believe he did that. Unbelievable."

Pouncey finished with two tackles - one for a loss - and a pass breakup, and his boundless energy fueled a recently lagging defense.

After the game, Meyer credited Pouncey as the spark for UF's newly energized defense.

"Already he's the biggest D-lineman we have," defensive end Duke Lemmens said. "He's keeping guys off the linebackers with his size. Pouncey's a different style."

Except for a few goal-line opportunities at Lakeland High, Pouncey had always been on the offensive side of the ball.

But the 6-foot-4, 313-pounder said it wasn't a difficult transition. He said his experience on the offensive side of the ball helped him adjust to the new position.

"[Playing on the offensive line] taught me a lot," he said. "Most of the time I know what they're going to do. I anticipate it, and I just jump on it."

Meyer said he isn't sure if Pouncey's switch will be permanent, but he said the freshman will continue to play on defense for the rest of the season.

Lemmens acknowledged he was a little surprised at how well Pouncey performed, saying he wrongly expected him to maintain the passive mindset typical of an offensive player.

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"It's like he's never played offense in his life," Lemmens said. "He's like a madman. I think there were three people on scout team that just got flat-backed at one time trying to block him."

When asked what it's like to hit someone, Pouncey responded with what has become a patented Pouncey answer.

"It's fun," he said. "I enjoy it. It's just a lot of fun out there."

Mike and his twin brother, Maurkice, who starts on offense at right guard, have said the only thing that's not fun for them is when they're by themselves or locked up inside their room.

It certainly hasn't become fun for their opponents. Maurkice is in the running for Freshman All-American honors and Mike, with two days experience, passed players on the depth chart that have played defensive line for years.

"I'll give him over to the Dark Side," said quarterback Tim Tebow of Mike moving to defense. "He's going to be a phenomenal defensive tackle. If he's going to contribute more like that, you've got to keep him over there."

Now that the Pounceys line up on opposite sides of the ball, they have the opportunity to play against each other in practice for the first time in their lives. So far, at least in pass-rush drills, Mike has grabbed the upper hand.

"He just pushed me right down," Maurkice said. "I was like, 'What?' He beat me a couple times, but I'm always going to get him back."

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