Bryant Young Helping Howard Improve

When Bryant Young's voice echoes on the practice field or in meeting rooms, it gets a special respect from the Florida players. They've seen what he can do. It's not that they don't respect Dan Quinn or former defensive line coaches, but with Young, it's different. With one of the best defensive tackle careers in NFL history, Young has been where the Florida linemen want to be.

Usually calm on the practice field and in meetings, his booming voice can grab any player's attention. It doesn't happy often, but when he gets heated on the practice field, the players have learned to watch out.

Tuesday morning, as Florida defensive tackle Jaye Howard recalls, was one of those times. Young called out some of the defensive tackle, saying they were "soft." As usual, the attention squared in sharply on Young.

"I've never seen anything like it in my life," Howard said. "The guy just exploded. I'm a senior and I've been around, but it brought chills to my body just hearing the man's voice echo. He's so big."

His size plays a part of it, as Howard joked that Young could "line up right now next to me." The NFL experience and success has the Florida players admiring Young's career on and off the field.

"You know that you've got to take in what he's saying because he's been where I'm trying to get," Howard said.

Moments like Tuesday's blowup don't happen often, though. It's the professionalism of Young and Quinn that has impressed the Florida defensive linemen most. Defensive line meetings have changed from something the players dread to an event they're excited about.

The technical, teaching approach that Young and Quinn take has been a perfect match for the group of Florida linemen.

"I learn something every day," Howard said. "Just sitting in the meetings you learn things. They've taught us more about how to shed blockers. In the past years, we weren't able to make as many plays."

The emphasis on pass rush moves is taught heavily in the meeting rooms, but once the players get on the practice field, it goes to another level. Young and Quinn put in as much time as necessary until the players grasp a concept.

"I've never been around such professionals like those guys," Howard said. "They're really into it technique-wise. If you don't get it, they're going to stay until you get it. I've never had that since I've been here."

For Howard, this coaching staff was a large return he returned for his senior year instead of jumping to the NFL. He wanted to play under the two coaches.

"I know that my technique wasn't right for the past two years," Howard said. "It hasn't been good. We just stay and work hard now. That's what they love—technique. You can make a play, but if your technique isn't right, it's not worth anything."

Howard has spent the offseason learning the new defense. In a 3-4 defense, he can play all three defensive line positions.

"It all starts with us," Howard said. "The linebackers are depending on us to keep guys off them in the 3-4 scheme."

The biggest difference from last year has been the team's mentality. Howard watched as the team grew overconfident heading into last season. Instead of preparing with passion, he saw the team lose its fire, as if the name on the helmet would win by itself.

This season has yielded a different sense around the team.

"(Last season) humbled us," Howard said. "Of course, we won two national championships in three years. Who does that? We felt like we could just go out and win, but it's not the case. When you're in the top spot, everyone is after you. It's tough, but it was humbling."

After playing well as freshmen, Howard thinks defensive tackles Shariff Floyd and Dominique Easley are in line for breakout seasons. They got caught up in the entitlement last season, but with that now in the past, Howard has seen a rejuvenated work ethic in the two.

"It's about maturity level," Howard said. "I feel like last year humbled Easley. He's a good player, and Shariff is also. I can see the learning curve increasing. They don't pout anymore. They just go out there and perform."

The lack of a pass rush last season has been well documented. The Gators were tied for tenth place with only 21 sacks last season, just one ahead of last place Vanderbilt.

That's a big reason why the coaches have put such an emphasis on pass rush this offseason.

"I feel like our d-line hasn't been real productive since the leaving of (Carlos) Dunlap and (Jermaine) Cunningham," Howard said. "It starts with the inside getting pressure. I was an inside guy last year, and I feel like I could've done better to help the linebackers get freed up and make plays."


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