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Sep 5, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; A general view of a "Its Great to be a Florida Gator" sign in the Swamp where the Florida Gators play the New Mexico State Aggies during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Gators’ Anzalone Returns in Time for 2016 Season

When Antonio Morrison left the field one final time last season, the Florida Gator Football team knew they had some big shoes to fill. Luckily for the Gators, there are a few linebackers who are ready for the challenge.

Linebacker Alex Anzalone committed to the University of Florida in January of 2013. By the 2015 season, he earned a starting linebacker spot alongside Antonio Morrison. Anzalone started the first two games of the season, recording a career high five tackles in the first game against New Mexico State.

Nov 22, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators linebacker Alex Anzalone (34) rushes against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Eastern Kentucky Colonels 52-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators linebacker Alex Anzalone (34) rushes against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Eastern Kentucky Colonels 52-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

His 2015 season with the Gators ended abruptly when he suffered a shoulder injury during the team’s second game against the East Carolina Pirates.

Anzalone missed the remaining ten games of the season, the SEC Championship game against Alabama, and the bowl game where the Gators fell to the Michigan Wolverines.

Alex Anzalone returns to the Swamp this fall, healthy and ready to play. Though he spent several months rehabilitating his shoulder, Anzalone says his continued involvement with team matters is what really helped him prepare for the upcoming season.

The junior linebacker has been working with his teammates and participating in practice.

Anzalone says his shoulder feels just the way he thought it would and hasn’t experienced any discomfort.

When Anzalone left the Gators last season, then-junior Jarrad Davis filled his role. Davis, who played in every game last season and started in 12 of the 14 games played by the Gators in 2015, ended with the second most tackles of the season: 98.

Jan 1, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Jake Rudock (15) throws a pass as he pressured by Florida Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) during the second quarter in the 2016 Citrus Bowl at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Jake Rudock (15) throws a pass as he pressured by Florida Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) during the second quarter in the 2016 Citrus Bowl at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

For a while,  Jarrad Davis returning for his final year was up in the air. He is returning, though, something Alex Anzalone says he’s thankful for.

With his fourth season underway, Alex Anzalone is stepping up with Jarrad Davis as one of the many leaders on this season’s team.

Part of being a leader on a team calls for guiding the younger guys. The Gators have had a few outstanding players join their team this year, some of whom Anzalone says have earned the team’s trust and are ready to play their role.

With the opening game of the season approaching in a few days, Alex Anzalone and the Gators have a limited amount of practices left before their 2016 debut. The Gators open up their season against the Massachusetts Minutemen Saturday night, September 3.

Though it’s his first game in almost a year, Anzalone says he couldn’t be more ready to get back out there.

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