Bostic brings physicality to linebacker position

Florida defenders Jon Bostic, right, and Lerentee McCray celebrate a fumble recovery against LSU at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Oct. 6.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, October 19, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 5:35 p.m.

Through four years at Florida, senior middle linebacker Jon Bostic always has been a heady football player.

He learned the game from his father, former NFL defensive back Jon Bostic. As an early spring enrollee in 2009, Bostic picked up plays so quickly that he worked his way up to second on the depth chart as a true freshman.

Yet Bostic has added a more physical element to his game that has allowed him to blossom as a senior. The Gators will need that combination of physicality and knowledge from Bostic again in a critical showdown in the The Swamp on Saturday against South Carolina.

Florida coach Will Muschamp said that Bostic is playing more physically at the point of attack.

“He's getting on big linemen in our league and shedding them and getting off and making plays,” Muschamp said. “You're going to get blocked. That's going to happen. Good players don't stay blocked long and Jon hasn't. He's been very active.”

Muschamp pointed to a key third-down play against Texas A&M as an example of Bostic's improved strength and athletic ability. On the play, Bostic was able to dive and sack scrambling Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel before he could make the turn down the sideline for a potential big gain.

“He plays well in space,” Muschamp said. “He covers well in space. I think back to A&M there making the play on Manziel on the third down on their sideline. A very athletic play in space for a 250-pounder. I'm very pleased with his play to this point.”

Bostic credited his improved physical play to the program set in place by first-year UF strength coach Jeff Dillman.

“I feel more explosive, stronger than I've ever been,” Bostic said. “It's really my first time doing these Olympic lifts and power cleans and stuff like that.”

Bostic said he tried an Olympic lifting program briefly during his senior year at Palm Beach Central High School, but didn't stick with it.

“They expressed to us that if you aren't doing it right, you can definitely hurt yourself,” Bostic said. “So, I really kind of just stayed away from it.”

Under Dillman's guidance, Bostic had no concerns about his health. The added strength has allowed Bostic to transform from just a cover linebacker to a more dependable run stopper. As a sophomore, Bostic had 3 interceptions but just 2.5 tackles for loss. This season, Bostic already has six tackles for loss and three sacks.

“He's playing really physical,” Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. “I think you saw that over the last few weeks in his game, not just in terms of how he's taking on blocks, but the way he can tackle.”

Bostic stopped short of saying this is his best season at UF.

“I feel like I have improved a lot in a lot of areas,” Bostic said. “Taking on blocks. Really just trying to get the defense lined up. Really just trying to bring everybody along. We got some young guys that have to step up each and every week in different positions. Just bringing them along and helping them.”

That improvement has allowed Bostic to emerge as a leader on a defense that ranks third in the Southeastern Conference in run defense (107.5 ypg allowed) and scoring defense (12.3 ppg).

“He's always had very good football smarts and real command of the defense,” Quinn said. “I think his leadership skills are improving as he's moving forward and that's just a natural progression as a senior and you have been playing and have the experience.”

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