Morrison looking for a bounce back season
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Antonio Morrison is putting 2013 in the rearview mirror.
The year was not an enjoyable one for the middle linebacker. First, he was arrested twice in a span of five weeks over the summer for punching a bouncer outside a local club and then barking at a police dog. When Morrison returned after being suspended for the season opener, he was a step too slow and played with almost too much anger. Then, he suffered a season-ending torn meniscus in his knee against Vanderbilt and missed the final three games of 2013.
All of this occurred as Florida crawled to a 4-8 finish, its first losing record in 34 years.
Now, it's all just a chapter in Morrison's life - one page he wants to turn.
"I don't even like thinking about last year anymore," Morrison said. "We learned from it and we know what to do this year."
After shedding 15-20 pounds in the off-season, Morrison weighs 220-225 pounds at 6-foot-1. He said losing weight was a decision he made on his own.
"I just feel more comfortable playing it this way," he said. "Last year they wanted me to gain weight but I ended up gaining too much. I wasn't able to move as well. But I feel comfortable at this weight right here."
Morrison has also tried to become more vocal as a leader this season for the linebacker corps. Helping him along the way has been redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor, who gives Morrison all types of advice.
"Whether he feels he's right or wrong, he's going to voice his opinion," Taylor said last week. "I agree with that because he gets it out on the table, whereas if there is an issue there's not going to be no behind closed doors. … It's going to be flat-out direct, and you'd talk about it. Me and him have talked about plenty of things. So I feel that is a positive trait, and his leadership is positive and something really good that we have on this team."
Added Morrison: "When I first came in, I came in in the spring, Mike Taylor was my roommate so we always had a good bond. I've always been close with Jon Bostic. We still have a great relationship. I talk to him at least once a week and he always gives me tips. Jelani Jenkins we had a good relationship. But now we're a lot tighter as a group. There was a big age separation when I first came in and now we're all tighter as a group. We're all like one."
Morrison's teammates have even seen him interact better with them this year.
"Me and him are clicking really well, we complement each other in everything we do," defensive tackle Darious Cummings said. "Whenever he makes a tackle, I give him a high-five. He gives me a high-five whenever I shed a block for him."
Even with Florida needing a bigger showing from Morrison in 2014, the junior linebacker wants to try to lead the unit the right way without stepping over anybody's boundaries.
"I'm going to do my own role," he said. "I'm not trying to follow behind nobody. I'm just trying to win, man."
NOTABLE QUOTES FROM TUESDAY
Tyler Moore, who suffered a season-ending injury last November from a scooter accident, doesn't ride one anymore. "It's hard not to ride them because the parking here is not the greatest. You've got to be able to get to campus, especially when you have to get up every day and be here at 6 a.m. if anyone talks to me it's like, be careful because it can go so quick. Keanu (Neal) got it this summer, Joey (Ivie) last fall, and then my thing."
Cummings expects a big season out of Dante Fowler Jr. "A one everybody can remember, hopefully. I hope so."
Bryan Cox Jr. is happy with Florida's depth on the defensive line. Freshman Gerald Willis is a player that stands out to him in the group. "They're all pretty much coming along. They just have to get the playbook down and I think we'll have a really strong group."
Brian Poole has played more at nickel, his natural position, with Marcus Maye (strained hamstring) out this week. "I like playing both, you know what I'm saying. I'm happy I get to move outside and show that I'm real versatile."
Moore talked about the notorious moment from last season when two Gators blocked each other. "I was injured at that time so I didn't hear much about it, but I've heard stories about how Jonotthan Harrison had a little anger about it because it was his play on Sportscenter every Friday."