|No. 4 Gators get boost from 'Lakeland Dreadnaught Association'|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 07 September 2007 00:37|
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -Florida defensive tackle Clint McMillan can look in just about any direction on the practice field or in the locker room and see one of them.|
Or two. Or three. Or even more.
``There's about 30 of them up here, the whole Lakeland Dreadnaught Association,'' McMillan said.
But the seven freshmen from Lakeland High have made an impact for the fourth-ranked Gators this season. Three of them played in the season opener, and Maurkice Pouncey started at right guard.
The Gators (1-0) are counting on even more from them Saturday night against Troy (0-1).
And the seven former Dreadnaughts are eager to pitch in. After all, they know a thing or two about repeating as champions. They won 45 consecutive games in high school and three straight state championships.
Shortly after celebrating another Class 5A title, cornerback Ahmad Black, defensive tackle John Brown, offensive linemen Maurkice and Michael Pouncey, running back Chris Rainey, linebacker Steven Wilks and receiver Paul Wilson signed with Florida.
Black, the Pouncey twins and Wilson enrolled in January and benefited from spring practice. The other three joined them in Gainesville this fall.
Having so many friends, classmates and longtime teammates made the transition easier.
``It's real comforting,'' Wilks said. ``I've got all the boys with me. If times gets hard, I've got people to keep me up.''
The seven often eat together, study together and go out together. Maybe more important, they push each other to be better on the field.
``It makes it real easy because we're all best friends,'' said Rainey, who bonded so well with the Pounceys that he moved in with them three years ago after having family problems at home.
Some of the friends already have earned playing time, too.
The Pounceys passed several older players on the depth chart during fall practice. Maurkice Pouncey then moved into a starting spot when coaches shuffled the offensive line to replace injured tackle Phil Trautwein. He nearly earned ``champions club'' status - Meyer's reward for players who excel in a game - following the opener.
``I was probably one mess-up from it,'' he said. ``I knew what plays I messed up on, so I could have been a champion easily. It was just mental things.''
His brother played against Western Kentucky as the backup center, and Rainey saw significant action on special teams.
Others might have seen the field had the game not been called because of lightning with 8:23 remaining. Black, Wilks and Wilson, however, also could redshirt this season.
Brown, meanwhile, might not even be eligible.
The NCAA has yet to clear him academically. He practiced with the team last month, but stopped a few weeks ago while the school awaits word on his status.
Brown was the last of the Lakeland seven to commit to play for coach Urban Meyer. The others were on board long before, creating a unique recruiting situation for the Gators.
Meyer can't recall ever seeing or hearing about so many high school teammates playing for the same college, especially not a top-tier program like Florida.
But he's glad it happened.
``If you're from a terrible, terrible program, it takes you two years to teach them how to put your hand behind the white line (during drills),'' Meyer said. ``If it's all equal, we're going to take that state champion instead of the guy that went 0-11, went through four coaches and really doesn't understand why you need to tape your ankles. It just wears you out.''
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