Black ready to lead

Published: Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 11:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 11:58 p.m.

Black is back, and that's good news for the Florida Gator defense.

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Florida's Ahmad Black during spring football practice Monday, March 22, 2010.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer

Ahmad Black, a rising senior, almost joined classmates and fellow defensive backs Joe Haden and Major Wright in declaring early for the 2010 NFL draft but decided to return to UF for his final year of eligibility.

His return, along with that of talented junior Will Hill, gives Florida two experienced veterans at the safety positions. That's important to have as a last line of defense on a unit that will feature several new faces this fall.

Even more importantly is the fact that Black, who is entering his third year as a starting strong safety after playing as a backup cornerback for seven games as a true freshman, is now an experienced senior. That makes him a valuable commodity on a defense that must replace leaders like Brandon Spikes and Ryan Stamper.

“I need to take more of a leadership role this year,” Black said. “I need to be more of a vocal leader and keep everybody in line. That was me last year, really, but I had a couple of guys helping me out. I'm just taking it more upon myself now.”

Assistant defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chuck Heater says Black is doing a superb job.

“Ahmad's been real helpful for sure,” he said. “When you've got a veteran player, it's always great because it gives you an additional teacher. He's very knowledgeable. Ahmad's a very smart guy — that's why he plays as well as he plays. So he is great for helping bring these young guys along.”

Black, who has 136 career tackles and eight career interceptions in 35 games (28 starts) for UF, relishes his role as a mentor.

“I'm just making sure everybody has their assignments down so that we can be a better football team than we are now,” he said. “The young guys really look good. They are adjusting very well and they're coming along. They listen well and they take coaching real well.”

Black said he is happy with his decision to return for his final season.

“I talked to the coaches and talked to my family, and we all sat down and made the right decision for me to come back,” he noted. “I sat down with the people I trust, so it really wasn't that difficult.”

Heater feels Black, a second-team All-SEC pick in 2008, made a great decision, not only for the upcoming season, but beyond.

“He knew he had to take care of himself a little better,” Heater said. “He needed to get a little bigger physically and really train and really get an edge physically and bring everything to the table physically. He's going to be biased against a little bit because he's not very big (5-9, 189), but he's such a great player. He's gotten a little thicker and a little bigger and a little faster, so that'll all help him.”

Black said he sees no drop-off at safety despite the loss of the hard-hitting Wright.

“I don't think so. We all three split time last year, and me and Will have a lot of experience,” Black said. “Will's played in big games, so he's going to be ready.”

Black feels the Gators are loaded with potential.

“We are young, but we have a heck of a lot of talent,” he said. “There's talent everywhere across the board, so I'm excited to see us play.”

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