UF fullback shines in season opener


Florida Gators fullback Gideon Ajagbe runs for a touchdown Saturday against Toledo.

Matt Stamey/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 2:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 2:08 p.m.

His last name is pronounced uh-JOB-ee.

Facts

GATOR GAME

* What: No. 12 Florida (1-0) vs. Miami (1-0)

* When: Noon Saturday.

* Where: Sun Life Stadium, Coral Gables.

* TV/Radio: ESPN, WRUF.

* Information: Visit www.gatorsports.com.

You won't hear his teammates saying it, though.

They call him the "Nigerian Nightmare."

Why?

"He's African," Mack Brown said, "and he's a nightmare."

The Florida running back faced Gideon Ajagbe in practice for three years when he played linebacker for the Gators.

This past spring, Ajagbe moved over to the offensive side of the ball at fullback. According to Brown, the 6-foot-2, 244-pounder gave his old position group nightmares throughout fall training camp.

"All linebackers felt some pain from Gideon at some time during camp," Brown said. "He's a strong guy."

In Saturday's 24-6 season-opening win over Toledo, Ajagbe showed off his physicality — and some pass-catching skills as well.

On Florida's scoring drive in the third quarter, quarterback Jeff Driskel found him open in the flat on second-and-10. Ajagbe was immediately met at the line of scrimmage by a Rockets defender, but broke the tackle with a spin move and rumbled ahead 12 yards for a first down.

"He made a guy miss," Driskel said. "It could have been an easy two-yard gain. Instead, he turned it into a big play."

Two downs later — on third-and-goal — Ajagbe hauled in a four-yard touchdown reception on a play-action pass from Driskel.

With Hunter Joyer still slowed by a hamstring injury, Ajagbe made the first start of his career.

"I haven't really played much these last three years," he said. "So for me to be a starter, it was a blessing. The opportunity to play with my teammates and be a big contributor, it was fun."

Moving forward, Ajagbe feels he can continue to be a factor through the air.

"I believe I can be a double threat," he said. "I have pretty good hands. I've been practicing and doing real well catching balls in camp.

"He's done an outstanding job blocking, protecting and catching the football," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "He'll throw his face in the fan. He's a guy that's really blossomed in the position.

"We've got a lot of confidence in Gideon. As good of a player as we think Hunter is, we think Gideon is a good player as well."

Zach Abolverdi is a Gainesville Sun correspondent.

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