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Florida's 'bruiser'

1/17/2012 - Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's Patric Young is only halfway through his sophomore season, but he already has made a pretty big impact with his teammates.

Their faces, specifically.

The 6-foot-9, 247-pound center has broken two noses, ripped open a gash above an eyebrow, and caused a concussion during practices. Unintentionally, of course. Young isn't malicious. He's just accidentally dangerous -- especially to the guys he plays with every day.

"It's just who I am," Young joked. "I'm the bruiser of my own teammates."

He's done a little more than bruise them. He broke Casey Prather's nose during a pickup game on a pick and roll when his shoulder smashed into Prather's face. He did the same to California's Allen Crabbe during Team USA camp last summer. Crabbe had set a screen and Young plowed his way through. His elbow flattened Crabbe's nose -- and gave Crabbe a concussion, too.

Two weeks ago, Young and Erik Murphy went up for a rebound during practice. Young came down with the ball and Murphy came down with a gash over his right eye courtesy of Young's elbow. It required four stitches.

It wasn't the first time the 6-10, 230-pound Murphy has hobbled away from an encounter with Young, but it was the first time he needed to see a doctor.

"When you foul him in practice it almost hurts you worse than it hurts him. It's like fouling a rock," Murphy said. "This [the cut] is the worst I've ever gotten from him so far.

"He never means to do anything. It's always by accident. He's just so big and strong if his elbow hits me in the face it's going to do some damage."

The injuries to Prather, Crabbe and Murphy get all the attention because they are so visible, but Young's teammates have plenty of other bumps and bruises. Bradley Beal, for example, didn't even last one practice before he added his name to the casualty list.

Beal went up for a layup against Young, then found himself looking at the ceiling of the Gators' practice facility.

"The first day of practice he knocked me on my butt and my hip was messed up for a long time," the 6-3, 207-pound freshman said. "Other than that, I've been trying to stay away from Pat."

Beal isn't angry with Young, nor is Prather or Murphy because they know injuries are a part of basketball and Young isn't trying to hurt them. UF coach Billy Donovan said Young is such a strong, physical player who plays with a ton of energy, and the occasional elbow to the face is collateral damage.

"He goes out of his area to rebound, and he goes out of his area to make plays and sometimes there's a lot of contact," Donovan said. "When a shot goes on the glass he's going to go after it and there's a responsibility by the other team to block him out and keep him off the backboard. When there's that kind of contact there's sometimes going to be some bloodshed."

Young has dinged up nearly all of his teammates during practice at one time or another, especially if they're working against him in the post. Redshirt freshman center Cody Larson (6-9, 231) bangs against Young every day in practice, and when he's taking a breather it's 6-7, 222-pound sophomore forward Will Yeguete. They've been able to keep their noses in the same shape -- so far.

The guards aren't unscathed, either. They've had to deal with Young setting a screen or a pick and have gotten banged around, too. Except for sophomore Scottie Wilbekin, who despite being only 18 years old may be the smartest player on the team.

"If I see him coming down the lane and I know he's about to dunk it, I won't take a charge," Wilbekin said. "I'll step out of the way.

"He's never gotten me. I stay out of his way."

Young -- who has an engaging personality and seems to always be smiling -- genuinely gets upset when he wounds a teammate. For a while, anyway. Besides, he said, he sometimes gets hurt, too.

"I feel kind of bad at first, but once I see they're OK, it's just part of the game," said Young, who is averaging 11.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. "We have our step-up drills that we do -- we take charges -- and Will hit me pretty hard the other day and I've been feeling it ever since in my chest.

"It's just part of the game. You've just got to get used to it and move on."

It's easier to get used to it, though, when you're cleaning someone else's blood off your jersey. And besides, Young was asked, is there anyone who gives you a hard time in practice?

He paused for a moment, tilted his head, then replied with a bit of a grin: "Nobody."

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.