Morrison a hit on Florida defense


Florida's linebacker Antonio Morrison (3) and others get water during a break at the first of two open spring football practices that the Gators are having, at the Sanders Practice Fields on the UF campus, in Gainesville on March 15.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 6:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 6:53 p.m.

His nickname was “Tank” in high school.

Enlarge

Florida's linebacker Antonio Morrison (3) and others get water during a break at the first of two open spring football practices that the Gators are having, at the Sanders Practice Fields on the UF campus, in Gainesville on March 15.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer

Watch him administer a punishing hit on an opponent in a football game, and it's obvious why.

Sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison is one of the strongest players on the Florida team and may also be the hardest hitter.

Ask former Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel.

The true freshman knocked Manuel briefly unconscious in the fourth quarter of last year's regular-season finale against the Seminoles. The jarring hit forced a fumble that was recovered by UF and resulted in a touchdown on the ensuing play, which gave the lead back to the Gators. They never lost it again in their 37-26 victory at FSU.

As impressive as the hit was, Morrison didn't think it was a big deal.

“I always do stuff like that,” he said. “My teammates see it in practice. Every time I get in the game, I go hard. It wasn't really surprising for me.”

Morrison has made the move to middle linebacker this spring to take over for the departed Jon Bostic. While there's no questioning Bostic's talent and production at the position, Morrison is a different breed of linebacker. He resembles the characteristics of a Brandon Spikes or Channing Crowder, both standout UF linebackers in their time in Gainesville.

“Mad man,” UF cornerback Jeremy Brown said when asked to describe Morrison. “Hard-hitter. Crazy. Mean. Scary. I'm taking him to war every time we have a chance. … He's going to be special.”

Florida coach Will Muschamp likes having someone with Morrison's drive and energy lead his defense.

“I like guys that go out there and self-motivate themselves,” Muschamp said. “He's a young man that you don't have to create an edge for. I don't have to sit there and give him a pep talk before practice to make sure his mind is ready to go.”

Morrison admits sometimes he pushes the envelope with his intensity, but he's learning how to tone it down when he has to.

“Sometimes Muschamp gets on me,” Morrison said. “I try to practice as if I'm going to play in the game. ... Sometimes that (passion) can control your whole game and you'll mess up and do the wrong thing, so you've got to make sure you balance it out.”

Although Morrison might be prone to a few personal fouls in the coming years, Muschamp would prefer to deal with that than the alternative.

“You'd rather say, ‘Whoa' than ‘Giddy up' from my experience,” Muschamp said. “If they don't like sticking their face in the fan, in the fire, so to speak, then this isn't the game for them. He likes it.”

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top