Notebook: McCray emerging at Sam


Lerentee McCray scores a touchdown after recovering a blocked kick against Penn State during the first half of the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., Saturday, January 1, 2011.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 10:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 6:14 p.m.

Lerentee is starting to look like Sam.

In the competition for the job as Florida's strongside or Sam linebacker, fourth-year junior Lerentee McCray is emerging.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp says it's too early to name starters, but McCray is clearly in the lead.

"At this point he's played the best at the Sam," Muschamp said Wednesday night after the team's scrimmage. "I would say he's been the most consistent guy."




It's a key role next to starter Jonathan Bostic in the middle and opposite Jelani Jenkins on the weakside.

At 6-foot-2 and 246 pounds, McCray gives the Gators some needed bulk. Muschamp also expects the former defensive end will help with the pass rush.

"When we get in some of our sub-package looks, he does a nice job rushing the edge," Muschamp said. "So he can give us some juice on the edge there."

Said McCray: "I really feel comfortable pass-rushing, but adapting back to the linebacker position has been coming along real good."

McCray's experience along the line allows the Gators' multiple-formation defense a lot of flexibility. Both the Sam and Buck, the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position, can pass-rush or drop into coverage.

"With our defense, there are a couple of disguise schemes where I'll be playing Buck, but mostly Sam," McCray said. "I'm real comfortable with our defense and all the schemes that the coach has in. The blitz packages are working real good for me."

Those blitz packages, well-disguised within the 4-3 and 3-4 fronts, could be a deadly weapon for the Gators if they can make a smooth transition to a more complicated defense.

"It's just a lot more plays that we have to get adjusted to," senior defensive end William Green said. "The defense we ran last year was a lot more simple. Now it's a lot more complex. Some guys were struggling with it, but it's something we're getting down."

Green, who has also played some at Buck, thinks UF's new defense is capable of surprising and confusing opponents with its multiple looks.

"As a player it makes you real excited," he said. "It gives you a lot more opportunities to probably make some more plays."

McCray is licking his chops at the thought of UF's new defense catching some opponents off guard.

"Always ready to surprise some teams out there," he said. "Some teams out there are underestimating us, a lot of people doubting us."

Dancin' Dominique

Dominique Easley is the Gators' designated dancing machine.

"Easley gets us going every practice," Bostic said. "It's not just in the locker room. You guys will see that before the game. He thinks he's Michael Jackson."

Offensive guard Jon Halapio said Easley gives the whole team a lift.

"He has some weird dance moves," Halapio said. "I don't know where he gets those from. Those dance moves bring a little energy to the locker room. If we're having a dull day, if we're not feeling practice, he'll come in there and just start dancing."

Easley has become known for using his feet in other ways as well.

Like other offensive linemen, Halapio echoed the sentiment that the sophomore defensive tackle has the quickest first step in rushing the passer.

"He's just relentless," Halapio said. "Since he's been here, I've never seen him tired, on and off the field. He just doesn't show it. He has a great motor. He's really explosive off the ball. I don't know if he knows the snap count, but he's just really quick. By the time I get out of my stance, he's already in my pads."

The Patchan poke

Fourth-year junior offensive tackle Matt Patchan has always been known as a tough guy.

He had the disposition to play 11 games at defensive tackle as a true freshman in 2008 before switching back to his more natural position on offense.

Patchan, who is currently the starter at right tackle, is always looking for blood as soon as the ball is snapped.

"Oh man, when he runs off the ball he's just trying to poke somebody's eyes out," Halapio said. "He brings that nasty intensity to our offensive line."

Rowdy Reptile rewards

UF students are known as the Rowdy Reptiles. Now the University Athletic Association has created an official student group to reward its most avid fans.

The group is free for students only. It rewards students for checking in at athletic events with points that can be used toward merchandise and other prizes. The first chance at membership is Friday's volleyball match against Boston College at 7:30 p.m. at the O'Connell Center. For more information about the program, go to GatorZone.com/RowdyReptiles.

Muschamp slated for campus luncheon

Muschamp will speak to the Titletown Gator Club on Sept. 2 at an 11 a.m. luncheon at the Reitz Union on campus.

There will be free reserved parking for the event. To find out more details and register, go to TitleTownGators.com.

Contact Jeff Barlis at (352) 374-5066 or barlisj@gvillesun.com and follow at Twitter.com/JeffBarlis.

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