Joyer ready for expanded role

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- One of Florida's best freshmen in 2011 wasn't even sure how much -- or if -- he would play.

In fact, fullback Hunter Joyer admitted he was a little scared the first time he was supposed to block linebacker Jonathan Bostic during preseason practice.

"Going from [playing against] a high school kid to a grown man like that, it's always a little scary, and you always have doubts," Joyer said. "You just have to go out there and do it."

Joyer did it, and did it well. Over and over and over again. So well that the 5-foot-11, 244-pound Joyer ended up playing in every game last season, one of only four freshmen to do so. He played on offense -- starting the Auburn game -- and was a key member of the kickoff return unit.

Not bad for someone who doubted whether he'd even see the field.

"I was a young guy, and I didn't really expect to play a lot," Joyer said. "I just tried to help as much as I could [and do] whatever they could use me for."

That occasionally meant carrying the ball in short-yardage situations. He ran 18 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns, which isn't surprising, since he ran for 500 yards and six touchdowns as a senior at Tampa (Fla.) Catholic in 2010. Joyer's role might expand even more in 2012 under new offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

That might not mean more carries, but catching passes out of the backfield like an NFL fullback is a possibility, Pease said.

"I like his intelligence, his physicality, just the fact he's smart, can bring a lot of things and be in the fullback position and then also be backups in other positions," Pease said. "He's got good hands. He's willing to block. He's a very unselfish player."

That was evident in high school, where he gladly blocked for Hank McCloud, who rushed for 1,767 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2009 to lead Tampa (Fla.) Catholic to a state runner-up finish.

"Hunter had a lot to do with [McCloud] rushing for 1,800 yards," Crusaders coach Bob Henriquez said.

The following season, Henriquez used Joyer as a ballcarrier and pass-catcher -- which is something the Gators should try, Henriquez said.

"If they utilize like him like we did in power sets as a runner, he's got very good feet," Henriquez said. "He can make people miss. When they start using play-action and throwing him the ball in the flat and throwing over the middle and letting him run some routes, he can be very, very effective as a pass-catcher out of the backfield."

Joyer said he'd love to do that kind of stuff, but he's fine if all he ever does at UF is block. Winning games is more important than stats, he said.

"That'd be nice [to catch some passes]," he said. "It'd help me out with my draft stock with the league one day, showing I can do more than one thing. It makes me more versatile.

"I'm just trying to be a team player and do what's best for the team. I really don't care about all that stuff now. I care about winning and getting back up to where they were the past couple years."