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Very few players are listed as sophomores in their fourth year on campus, but then again, most players have better luck than Matt Patchan when it comes to staying healthy. Such a unique situation requires a sense of humor.
"I've been bullet free for a while," offensive tackle Patchan said. "It's been a good run."
Patchan was referencing an off-the-field incident in the May 2008 when he was shot in the shoulder by a gunman who randomly fired into a crowd of people. It turns out, that fall was actually the season to date that Patchan has contributed the most at UF, playing in 11 games on the defensive line. In 2009, he moved back to offense, but suffered a season-ending knee injury in game four. A lingering wrist injury kept him out of action for the entire 2010 season.
In year four of being a Gator, Patchan is finally experiencing the grind of a full season. Despite missing 23 consecutive games the last two seasons, he never felt rusty.
"It's one of those things like riding a bike," the redshirt sophomore from Tampa said. "The first day you go out there in pads, you get to hit, you get to have fun. Obviously you're never perfect with your technique, but it returns eventually, slowly."
Some of Patchan's critics would say that "never perfect" is an all too fitting way in which to describe his play this season.
He and the rest of the Gator offensive line have been criticized for lack of consistent blocking without penalties. That might finally be taking a turn for the better, as the group was responsible for only two penalties in Saturday's win over Vanderbilt.
On Monday, coach Will Muschamp recognized Patchan's performance in the Vanderbilt game with the scrap iron award, the team's weekly honor for best offensive lineman.
The fact that Patchan has improved as the season has gone on is just a product of the way he plays.
"I play much better at the end of the game. I play much better at the end of practice. The more reps I get, the better I am at it," Patchan said.
With Florida's final SEC game on Saturday, Patchan has a season of reps to build on. If the Gators want to give No. 15 South Carolina an upset loss at home, they will need Patchan on top of his game at kickoff.
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