Gators still have a Pouncey

Mike Pouncey moves from guard to center, just as brother Maurkice did.

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Published: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 4:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 4:23 p.m.

Sitting in a University of Florida classroom in early January, everything was different for Mike Pouncey.

It wasn't the new semester or the crisp winter air that felt strange. It wasn't having to learn names and faces of new classmates. It was what wasn't there that had Florida's 6-foot-5, 320-pound goofball of a senior offensive lineman feeling uneasy.

Throughout his entire life, Pouncey has had almost another body attached in twin brother Maurkice. Short of bathroom breaks and some dates, the two were rarely separated. Now with Maurkice skipping his senior season and entering the NFL Draft, they are living their everyday lives without each other.

Things got so bizarre for Mike that he's found himself doing strange things in class without Maurkice. He's gone as far as to relinquish his job as the slacker, taking his own notes. January marked the first time Mike said he caught himself writing down what a professor said instead of copying from Maurkice.

"He took all the notes," Mike said of Maurkice's classroom habits.

Not only is Mike improving his school skills, he's learning to be a leader without his sidekick. The two were important vocal leaders together, but Mike, named a team captain alongside senior defensive end Justin Trattou, said his job is to guide this team in 2010.

"I've got to lead this team," Mike said. "I've got the most starts on the team — just gotta go out there and prove everybody day by day that we're going to be a good team this year."

He's only been solo for a couple of months, but teammates are impressed.

"It's definitely different without both of them there, but Mike's doing a great job," Trattou said.

"He's really leading the offense and the offensive line and being a really good leader."

Florida needs that. Losing all-everything quarterback Tim Tebow hurt Florida's leadership council, but Mike Pouncey expects to fill some of that void.

Mike Pouncey admits it was hard turning down the draft. Maurkice pushed Mike to join him. Projections had Mike being drafted on the second day, and the NFL money sounded pretty good.

Mike talked it over with his family and one of his most trusted teachers — interim head coach/offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. Addazio advised him to stay in school and benefit in next year's draft by having an extra year of preparation. His family sided with Addazio.

Besides, with Maurkice projected to go as high as the late first round, money should be there. Mike joked that he expects "a lot of stuff" from Maurkice's first paycheck.

Class is more of a chore and the laughs aren't as loud, but things have been smooth without Maurkice. Fans, teammates and coaches are finally comfortable calling him Mike instead of "Pounce" or "Twin." Fellow lineman Maurice Hurt has replaced Maurkice as Mike's workout buddy. Mike has also made the move from guard to center, like his brother did, to improve his draft stock.

"Centers are more valuable in the (NFL) because anybody can play guard," Mike said.

Quarterback John Brantley said he's enjoying his time with Mike and doesn't anticipate a drop-off at center with Mike running the show.

Still, it's unusual seeing just one Pouncey standing near him.

"It is kind of weird (not having both of them)," Brantley said. "They do have a good time and they make stuff fun. They also get the job done and they work the hardest probably out of anybody. It is kind of weird just seeing Mike out there, but we'll be fine."

Mike still isn't entirely comfortable being on his own but says he's a grown man and will adjust. It doesn't hurt that he's surrounded by a very familiar supporting cast.

"It's going to be weird, but I've been with these guys on the offensive line for three or four years," he said. "I feel like they're all my brothers, so they'll be there for me."

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