Notebook: Harrison center of attention


Center Jonotthan Harrison (72) blocks for quarterback Jeff Driskel during the Orange and Blue Spring Game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, April 9, 2011, in Gainesville, Fla.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 7:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 7:08 p.m.

Jonotthan Harrison is aware the comparisons will come.

As Florida's projected starting center, Harrison will be judged by a high standard. Florida's previous two starting centers — Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Pouncey — were NFL first-round draft picks. Maurkice Pouncey went 18th overall in the 2010 draft to the Pittsburgh Steelers, while Mike Pouncey went 15th overall in the 2011 draft to the Miami Dolphins.




"There should always be some kind of pressure, especially being on a team like the Florida Gators," Harrison said. "There is some pressure, but you just have to live up to the high expectations."

Florida coaches moved the 6-foot-3, 295-pound Harrison from guard to center last spring because they felt he could handle the physical and mental demands of the position. Harrison said he feels like the offensive line is coming together. Two of his roommates — starting right guard Jon Halapio and reserve guard Kyle Koehne — will play key roles on the line this season.

"The fact that we're close off the field brings us even closer on the field," Harrison said.

Harrison said he also feels comfortable with the snap exchange with senior quarterback John Brantley. Last year, starting center Mike Pouncey struggled with his shotgun snaps to Brantley in UF's season opener against Miami of Ohio. Florida's new offense under Charlie Weis will feature less snaps out of the shotgun and more exchanges under center.

"When I initially moved to center, I was having a little transition with the snap, a little problem with transitions," Harrison said. "But now I'm fine."

Elam mentoring 'Pop'

True freshman DeAnte "Pop" Saunders has been one of the surprises of the fall, switching from cornerback to climb to the top of the depth chart at free safety.

Sophomore strong safety Matt Elam is helping Saunders with the transition to his new position.

"Pop has been great," Elam said. "I didn't expect him to do so well because he never played the position."

The soft-spoken, hard-hitting Elam is teaching Saunders the ropes of the position, which includes coverage calls on defense.

"The safety position is different schemes, so there is a lot of different things you need to pick up," Elam said. "But I helped him a lot, because I was there before."

Player coach

Harrison said sixth-year senior guard Dan Wenger has served as almost a second coach on the field because of his experience.

Wenger, a transfer from Notre Dame, played under Weis when Weis coached the Fighting Irish.

"He's been on the offense five years, going on six years right now," Harrison said. "He's been able to point out little things maybe the coach couldn't relate to us as well and has been able to help us out with that. It's really helped out the offense."

Wenger moved ahead of Koehne to first on the depth chart at left guard this week. But Florida coach Will Muschamp said earlier in the week that the secondary and offensive line were the most unsettled positions heading into Saturday's season opener against Florida Atlantic.

"The best five will play," Harrison said. "I'll leave it at that."

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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