JACKSONVILLE — It's not the way Sharrif Floyd wanted it to happen, but because of a teammate's injury something good has emerged for him.
Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley's season-ending knee injury in the final regular-season game will allow Floyd to play more on the inside of the defensive line — the place where the sophomore feels most at ease.
"Since I've been playing eight or nine years now, I've been at the D-tackle," Floyd said. "I know it, I know all the blocks, I know what's coming after me. It's not thinking, it's just going so I think I understand it a little bit more. And there's no need to be patient at the D-tackle."
Floyd has spent much of the season playing at defensive end because that's where the depth-depleted Gators needed him most. You might call it the ultimate team sacrifice for Floyd who now relishes the chance to play his more natural position in Monday's Gator Bowl to conclude his second season.
"I'm definitely more comfortable (at defensive tackle)," Floyd said. "I don't like the way it happened, or the reason I've moved back in, but it happens in the game of football and I can't be more excited."
If Floyd has his way, this will be a permanent move heading into spring and next season. But Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said where Floyd plays next season remains to be seen.
"We'll have to look and see who the guys are we add to the (team)," Quinn said. "One of the good things about him, I think he does play a good defensive tackle. I think he's a really strong base end though. A little bit of it will depend on the style of team and how we are playing. In the 3-4 system you really like a big guy over at end. We kind of moved him. We probably played more the 3-4 system as we went along but he can play both spots and will continue to do that."
Floyd's teammates say while he may be more comfortable at one spot, he excels at both.
"Coming in he was dominating at the tackle spot … but I'd say he's a player anywhere he goes," defensive end Ronald Powell said.
For Floyd, Monday's game against Ohio State is extra special for more than just a chance to change positions. When the Philadelphia native was trying to decide which college to attend, he ultimately went to the wire with two schools: Florida and Ohio State.
"I think that's what I'm more excited about, getting to play my second choice," Floyd said. "I'm not really looking at it like playing Coach (Urban) Meyer's school, I'm just looking at it as playing my second choice. I can't wait."
Floyd recognizes the irony in playing a school soon to be coached by his former coach, although he says Meyer was not the primary reason he chose UF.
"I can't really speak for anyone else, but me personally, I think that's good for him," Floyd said. "He's going to do what's best for him and his family — no hard feelings over here. If I saw the guy today, I would still shake his hand and talk to him with a normal conversation. That's the name of the game, it can happen anywhere. So I say congrats and good luck to him."
Floyd's season began with a two-game suspension for NCAA rules violations that occurred before he arrived in Gainesville, but he has started every game since, registering 44 tackles. The trials and tribulations this season have taught him some important life lessons, he said.
"I think through all the adversity, you learn not only football-wise, but you learn about who cares and who's really in it for the team," Floyd said. "That was a big thing for me because I like to observe and understand where people are coming from and things of that sort. I think it was good. Adversity is bad, but it's not all bad. There's some good in it. You learn from it and you keep moving forward."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.