- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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Editor’s note: Each day between now and Florida’s Allstate Sugar Bowl date with Louisville, GatorNation will review the season for a key Gators player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at LB Antonio Morrison.
31 tackles, 1 sack, 1 QB hurry, 1 forced fumble
Role in 2012: Morrison enrolled in January and was impressive enough to earn time on special teams and be the primary backup for WLB Jelani Jenkins. He made two starts because of injuries.
The good: Morrison isn’t that big (6-foot-1, 218 pounds) but he is a hitter. UF coach Will Muschamp called him a "violent, physical football player," and there’s no better evidence than what Morrison did to Florida State QB EJ Manuel. He hammered the 6-5, 240-pound Manuel and caused a fumble, a play that proved to be the turning point in the Gators’ victory and one of the key plays of the entire season. Morrison has pretty good football IQ, too, or the staff wouldn’t have trusted him to make those two starts as well as start against Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.
The bad: While it’s a good story that Morrison is such a big hitter despite his size, he’s got to get bigger and stronger. He won’t be able to last an entire season in the SEC at linebacker if he doesn’t add some bulk. Another offseason with strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Dillman will help, but if he’s one of those guys who just can’t gain weight, he could eventually end up moving to safety.
Crystal ball: Morrison will be starting somewhere next season. It looks like Jenkins will return for his senior season, so Morrison might move to strongside linebacker or possibly even middle linebacker, although he would certainly be undersized there unless he puts on about 20 pounds. Regardless of where he plays, the bottom line is that he has to be on the field somewhere. He’s too talented to be on the sideline, playing as a reserve or mainly on special teams.