Defensive Line Brings Energy to Media Day

The personality of the Florida defensive line was on display at Friday's media day. No matter where you went in the Touchdown Terrace area of the stadium, it was tough to drown out the jokes and laughs of the defensive linemen at the microphones. What started with questions about transition soon became a stand up routine for the five players who will anchor the defensive line.

Jaye Howard and Omar Hunter, the veterans of a position group dripping with potential, sat in the middle of the elevated press conference table. More often than not, they shook their heads and smiled at what was going on around them.

Ronald Powell, asked a question about his personal offseason workouts, leaned back from the microphone to see what Shariff Floyd and Dominique Easley were laughing about on the other side of the podium.

The attention then turned back to the middle of the group, where Hunter was asked if he could handle keeping the group in line during the season.

"I can't," Hunter joked, looking at Powell and shaking his head. "They're too much for me."

All that did was make the antagonizing worse. Powell chimed in, unprompted.

"We pick on Omar-- Omar has the love handles," Powell said of the 305-pound defensive tackle.

The group lost it, bursting into laugher at the same time. From there, Powell decided to give shout-outs to other players doing one-on-one interviews with reporters in other areas of the room. First it was William Green, followed by Lerentee McCray.

Howard, the fifth-year senior of the group, decided to explain the media what was happening.

"As you all can see, you can tell how our d-line is going to be this year," Howard said, grinning ear-to-ear. "We're going to play with an attitude this year."

It's an attitude that the group isn't afraid to admit was lacking last season. Florida was tied for tenth with 21 sacks in 2010, just one more than last place Vanderbilt. After losing starting defensive ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens from last year's team, the question marks surround.

Head coach Will Muschamp wasted no time addressing the pass rush issues on Friday. When talking about issues he wants to get solved in camp, the pass rush was the first defensive one he brought up.

There will be creative ways to improve the rush, too. Muschamp said Floyd will play some defensive end this year, most often in the 3-4 defense. Howard and Easley are capable of sliding out to defensive end, too.

More playing time for the sophomores should help the pass rush by itself.

"We're going to do it together," Powell said. "All of us. It's going to take all of us to do it, and we're going to do it together."

The offseason brought different things for each player.

For Howard, it started with a decision of whether or not to even return to Florida. He could've left early for the NFL Draft but elected to return for his senior season because of the decision to bring Will Muschamp in as the new head coach.

"Bringing in a defensive coach played a part in it," Howard said. "The hiring of Coach Quinn and Young coming in also influenced it."

The Bryant Young hire is one that made the defensive linemen all shook their head in agreement once Howard started talking about him. They realize the importance of it. Not only does Young have a Hall of Fame résumé from his time in the NFL, he knows how to influence the defensive linemen off the field, too.

"It's unbelievable the knowledge he brings to this," Howard said. "We're embracing it. It's not every year you have a coach who played in the league as long as he did and was a Pro Bowler. We take in what he has to say."

Even with the experience of Young and Quinn, a former NFL defensive line coach with multiple teams, Muschamp has still been a constant in the defensive meetings.

"He's in our meeting rooms more than the offensive meeting rooms," Hunter said. "He's breaking down film with us. During the course of practice, he spends a lot of time watching us."

Floyd has dropped some weight since the end of last season, wanting to focus more on the pass rush while also helping him during reps at defensive end. The cross training of Floyd, Easley and Howard has been smooth so far.

"I feel like it's going to work really good for us as a defensive line to cross train different positions," Floyd said. "Now we already have two different positions under our belts. Especially in a 3-4 defense, a lot of NFL teams are starting to go to it, so it's good for us."

Easley has turned heads in the offseason with his work ethic. He convinced his teammates enough during the season last year that he could make an impact.

"He's got the fastest get off I've ever seen," linebacker Jon Bostic said. "He's just so disruptive."

Powell split time between defensive end and linebacker last season, and he'll be used in a similar role this year. The key for him this offseason was to improve his footwork and use of his hands since he'll be used as a pass rush specialist this season.

"I've been working on a lot of hand and bag drills," Powell said. "I do a lot of ladder drills to work on my footwork. I feel faster."

There's plenty of talent on the defensive line to make up for the group's struggles last year. However, individual talent is what caused problems last year. They know it's about coming together as a group.

"We're going to win games on talent, but we're going to go even further if we're together," Floyd said. "We've got each other's backs."


Fightin Gators Top Stories