GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The new guy in the Gators’ backfield trips up offensive coordinator Brent Pease.
The same is probably true for most of us.
In the spring, when talking about No. 25, Pease quipped, “Gideon … I’m not even sure how to say his whole name.”
Pease was talking about redshirt junior Gideon Ajagbe (uh-JOB-ee), whose career up to this point includes four games, one season-ending rotator cuff injury and a season-ending knee injury.
Add a position change, too.
The 6-foot-2, 243-pound Ajagbe began his career at linebacker. After last season, Gators coach Will Muschamp called Ajagbe into his office. Muschamp asked if Ajagbe would move to fullback to see if he could help the team at that position.
Ajagbe quickly said yes and in spring practice earned the backup spot behind starter Hunter Joyer.
That didn’t surprise Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy, Ajagbe’s former roommate.
“I know he is a hard worker,” Murphy said. “He is dedicated. (We) both kind of went through struggles, not getting much playing time. I know he is anxious to get out there and prove himself. Just watching him myself, he’s done a great job.
“He is a physical fullback. We’re excited about what Gideon brings to the table.”
So is the coaching staff. Pease offered nothing but praise in the spring when Ajagbe’s name came up.
Muschamp liked what he saw, too.
“Gideon has been really productive for us,” Muschamp said. “One hit (to Joyer) and you’re out of it. So you’ve got to be careful how you invest your time with a guy when you don’t have much depth at the position. All of a sudden, we feel very comfortable.”
While fullback is new to Ajagbe, toting the football is not.
At Ransom Everglades High, Ajagbe rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns his senior season. He arrived at UF in 2010 and was redshirted because of a rotator cuff injury. After playing four games late in the 2011 season on special teams, Ajagbe suffered a knee injury in fall camp last season and never played.
The position switch served as a lifeline.
“I was really glad with the change. I really needed it,” he said. “I worked a lot with the coaches on the transition. I went into the spring trying to be consistent every single day. Obviously there are some things I can do and do well, but I was more worried about being consistent, learning the techniques and getting better at the things I wasn’t good at.
“That’s the same focus I’m going to have in camp.”
While Joyer is entrenched as the starter, Ajagbe and redshirt freshman Rhaheim Ledbetter, who moved from safety in the spring, now add some depth.
Ajagbe hasn’t played since Florida’s win over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl in January 2012, so simply having a defined role this season is a move in the right direction.
“I’m not trying to ‘wow’ anybody, but just trying to be consistent and get better every day in what I’m supposed to do,” he said.
If successful, his last name should be less daunting for Pease and everyone else.