Linebackers James and Wingo step up to mentor and revamp Florida Gators’ defense

by | Mar 12, 2024 | 0 comments

Shemar James Derek Wingo

As the Florida Gators gear up this spring for the critical 2024 season, veteran linebackers Shemar James and Derek Wingo are stepping up. Despite both players nursing injuries, their leadership and experience are proving to be invaluable resources.

PODCAST: Ron Roberts ‘ready to go’ for the Florida Gators | James and Wingo leaders for the linebackers

During his sophomore campaign, James, now a junior, significantly impacted the field by recording a total of 55 tackles, ranking second on the team. Unfortunately, a knee dislocation cut his season short. However, he’s currently partially participating in the team’s spring practices. Wearing a black non-contact jersey, he’s transformed his on-field leadership role into sideline mentorship. James shared, “I’m doing a lot of mentoring since I can’t physically be out there.”

Then there’s the seasoned Wingo, a fifth-year senior who has played in 45 games under three different position coaches since his arrival in 2020. Despite injuries, he’s always shown a commitment to the team, earning the admiration of his peers and the coaching staff. Wingo, who’s recovering from a shoulder injury, emphasized the importance of finishing what you start, stating, “I came to the University of Florida not for specific coaches, I came for the University of Florida.”

For the Gators to revamp their struggling defense in the 2024 season, the leadership and experience of players like James and Wingo will be crucial. Roberts is optimistic, stressing the importance of fundamentals like tackling and creating turnovers.

As Wingo puts it, the buy-in from the team is there, and the culture and atmosphere are good. “When we come out there every day, we compete… Guys want to get better. I think taking that step by step, whether that’s the spring, summer, or fall, it’s all going to fall into place.”

Linebackers coach Ron Roberts, an experienced leader of young men, acknowledges the significance of having such veterans in the locker room. “Tremendous leadership there. Do you have the right guys in leadership positions that can help bring the young guys along?” he said. Both James and Wingo are embodying this role, guiding younger players and setting a standard of excellence.

This veteran presence, combined with a motivation to improve from last season, is creating a shift in the team’s culture. There’s a different level of buy-in, with players showing readiness to make a difference this year.

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