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Wednesday October 9, 2013 Gators offensive lineman Max Garcia coming on strong after year of not playing

Max Garcia

Gators offensive lineman Max Garcia, left, gets a hand from teammate Ian Silberman at Kentucky.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Sometimes, for whatever reasons, the grass appears greener somewhere else.

Often, a player transfers and is never heard from again. Other times the change of scenery works out.

Gators offensive lineman Max Garcia falls into the latter category.

Garcia has started all five games at left guard for Florida after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Garcia started his career at Maryland and played in 14 games as a sophomore in 2011, starting 12.

When former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen was replaced by Randy Edsall, the 6-foot-4, 311-pound Garcia opted to start over somewhere else. His final choices were USC, Georgia, Clemson, Ole Miss and Florida.

Based on Gators coach Will Muschamp's comments the past couple of weeks, Garcia is playing at a high level.

Muschamp singled out Garcia's play after the Gators' win at Kentucky and Saturday's victory over Arkansas.

Max Garcia

"He's been a really good fit for us,'' Muschamp said. "Max is a smart guy and the one guy I would say, you know, our pass protection grades are pretty good for our offensive line, not so much in our run game. But Max is pretty solid all over. He was a guy that did a lot of things well for us. He can play left tackle. He can play multiple positions."

Garcia's ability to run and pass block has helped quarterback Tyler Murphy in his transition and helped the Gators offense sustain drives in three consecutive SEC wins.

Garcia missed a portion of fall camp with a back injury but has improved and been a stabilizing force for an offensive line that has seen starters D.J. Humphries, Jon Harrison, Jon Halapio and Tyler Moore either miss games or stretches of games due to injury.

"The game has been slowing down for me,'' Garcia said Tuesday. "The first two games were just kind of getting back into football. It had been so long. I'm just trying to keep it going."

Prior to starting the season opener against Toledo, Garcia had not played since November 2011.

He spent last season adding about 20 pounds of bulk to face SEC defensive linemen like he will square off against at LSU on Saturday.

While his former team lost 63-0 at Florida State on Saturday, the Gators won 30-10 over Arkansas to get off to a 3-0 start in the SEC.

Garcia wants that streak to continue in what he expects to be a unique atmosphere at Tiger Stadium.

"It's going to be loud, it's going to be rowdy,'' he said of his first trip to Death Valley. "I'm excited for that. I just love playing in big games and I have a great opportunity to shine."

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