Howard Comfortable with Moving Around

The five-man defensive front the Gators used Saturday against Tennessee forced some players into new positions. Luckily for the Florida coaches, Jaye Howard is used to switching around. He has played all four positions on the defensive line in his college career. This time he moved back out to defensive end to get bigger bodies on the line against the Volunteers' power run game.

Jaye Howard was forced to defensive end in the 2009 SEC Championship when Carlos Dunlap was suspended. He played the strong side defensive end position again in Knoxville, and this time he was more prepared for it. The Gators have been working on the formation since spring practice.

"Last game, I moved out to the five-technique," Howard said. "It felt pretty good getting used to it. I hadn't played it since the Alabama game. It helps the defense out to stop the run."

His practice time at the position was limited to the week before the game because of the timing of Dunlap's suspension. Howard said he didn't feel lost, but the lack of preparation caused him to think too much instead of reacting to the play.

"Last year when we played Alabama, I was just thrown out there because I really didn't have reps all season," Howard said. "I built from it. I got better and my reads now and I feel better at the position."

The five-man front came from new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who brought it with him from the Arizona Cardinals. Austin saw how deep the defensive tackle position was with trusted upperclassmen. Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders and Brandon Antwine offer three seniors that the Gators want on the field as much as possible.

The defense is made to stop a running game like the one Florida saw over the weekend in Knoxville and the one Alabama will use.

"Coach Austin brought it and thought it would be a good fit to get the biggest bodies on the field at the same time," Howard said. We've got so many veterans out there."

Howard came to campus as a FOX defensive end before moving to the strong side defensive end position. He then moved inside to nose tackle when Marsh struggled with injury before finding his home at the three-technique last season.

The coaches can now use his versatility to their advantage. Howard is now playing at 312 pounds, but the quickness hasn't left. It took until the spring for him to be comfortable with the added weight and regain his athleticism, but the redshirt junior is comfortable and ready to contribute.

"It's made me a better player," Howard said. "I'm able to do whatever the team needs at that time. It doesn't matter where."

The objective for the Florida defensive line this weekend against Kentucky is similar to their mindset going into the South Florida game. Bulls quarterback B.J. Daniels provided a dual-threat quarterback, and wildcat quarterback Randall Cobb does the same for the Wildcats.

Cobb will also see time as a receiver and punt returner. The Florida coaches are already preaching the importance of knowing where Cobb is at all times.

"You have to watch out for him," Howard said. "Sometimes we'll line up in the wildcat formation. He's a great athlete, and we have to be awake. You just have to have your eyes open. You never know what's going to happen with him. He's a versatile athlete. He's a threat at all times."

If Howard continues to see time at defensive end, he will be focused on containing the edge. Cobb and running back Derrick Locke present elite speed that will challenge the Florida defense.

"I have to always be quick on my feet," Howard said, "especially against a back that's an outside runner and tries to get to the edge of the defense."
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