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'Self-starter' sets sights on No. 1

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida spent its first few practices at "thud tempo," meaning defensive players wrap up the ballcarrier but don't tackle them to the ground.

Linebacker Antonio Morrison has taken over as the man in the middle for Florida.

For some, that's easier than others.

Sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison isn't the biggest fan of "thud tempo." He likes to hit.

"Sometimes (Will) Muschamp get on me," Morrison said. "You know, they your teammates. But I just try to play in practice I try to play as if I’m going to play in the game. But, I mean, sometimes I got to know that they’re my teammates."

Kent Taylor found out firsthand earlier this spring that it's tough for Morrison to pull back. After catching a pass over the middle, Taylor relaxed when the whistle blew.

Morrison planted him on his back with one swing of the arm.

He got an earful from the head coach, getting himself kicked out of the drill for a few plays after Muschamp spoke his mind.

Still, Muschamp prefers guys like Morrison.

"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.”

Morrison, who picked up his toughness from his father and brother at a youn age, admits he has to do a better job controlling not using the hit stick at all times.

"Sometimes that 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," he said.

But if Morrison leaves a few extra teammates bruised this thing, it won't be the worst thing in the world. He's instilling toughness in a team that made that its calling card a year ago.

And Will Muschamp never has to push him twice to come out to practice every day and give it his all.

"It’s fun to coach a guy that has a lot of passion and energy," Muschamp said. "I like self-starters. I like guys that go out there and self-start. That self-motivates themselves. That you don’t have to create an edge for them every day. And he’s a young man that you don’t have to create an edge for."

This spring, Morrison's got a lot on his plate. He's being tasked with being a major leader in the middle of the defense while learning all the calls he'll have to make.

Many guys would be overwhelmed by the amount of information flying at them or nervous about the prospect of starting at a major SEC program as a sophomore.

Not Morrison.

"That experience (last year), that just let me know how the speed of the game is," he said. "Let me know how things is going to happen in the SEC. So by like the second game I started, I felt comfortable being out there. The first game, at A&M, I was a little nervous. But at Tennessee, I was comfortable being out there."

His role's a whole lot bigger now, though.

But his goals are the same. He wants to make the Florida defense a feared unit yet again.

"Hard playing. Nothing. No running. No passing. No nothing. We want to be the No. 1 defense. That’s our goal."

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