Howard Details the Offense

The defense is supposed to be the anchor of this Florida team. That's likely the way it will go this season, but defensive tackle Jaye Howard wouldn't be surprised if the offense put up some big numbers. Working against them in practice, the senior sees plenty of growth in the first year under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.

It all starts up front. When he was healthy in practice last season, Howard was the only consistent pass rush Florida had. He was humble to admit it on Wednesday, but there were many times where he could get into the backfield at practice whenever he wanted.

This fall, that's different. This offensive line is much younger than the group that produced two players taken in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft last season, but that hasn't stopped them from opening the eyes of the defensive linemen.

"They're just out to prove people wrong," Jaye Howard said about the offensive line. "I'm thinking that last year, some of these guys couldn't even block me. Now, they're giving me a run for my money. They're coming along great."

Playing inside at defensive tackle, most of Howard's reps come against right guard Jon Halapio or center Jonotthan Harrison. It's not a coincidence that those are the two who have impressed him the most.

Then there's fifth year senior James Wilson, who is fighting with Ian Silberman for the starting left guard spot. The 334-pounder has had trouble staying healthy, but with a clean bill of health and a productive fall camp, Howard says that the key is to try and speed rush past Wilson because "if he gets his hands on you, you're going for a ride."

The group of interior linemen may be younger this season than last, but that doesn't keep Howard from expecting production out of them.

"I can tell a difference from last year," Howard said. "They're coming off the ball and putting their nose into the blocks."

The quarterback position has benefited from better protection this fall. If the offensive line bounce back like Howard expects, it could mean big things for senior quarterback John Brantley, too.

Howard has seen a different Brantley this fall. He is more commanding in the huddle and being more vocal than last season.

"He's a leader," Howard said. "He is getting the offense better every day. He has stepped up and taking over things for us."

The passes he's throwing are noticeably different to Howard. With Brantley's confidence increasing because of the new offensive scheme, his passes are looking a lot better, too.

"All I can say is the SEC better watch out," Howard said. "Brantley is on fire right now. His whole demeanor has changed. He's taking control of the offense and taking charge. In my eyes, he's a Heisman candidate."

When Brantley and Howard graduates after the 2011 season, the defensive tackle knows his school is in good hands. Will Muschamp said on Tuesday that Jeff Driskel has distanced himself as the backup quarterback, and that comes as no surprise to Howard.

Jacoby Brissett brings plenty of talent to the table as well, but Driskel has the advantage because he was on campus to go through spring practice. That comfort has translated to the fall, as Driskel now has a hold on the playbook and has impressed even players on the defensive side of the ball.

"In my eyes, he's the next Tim Tebow," Howard said. "He's so fast and explosive. (He throws) real great. If something happens and Brantley goes down, we feel reliable with him in the game."

To settle Brantley in at the quarterback position, the Gators expect to pound the ball through the run game. With Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey drawing rave reviews, that's the game plan Howard expects to see, too.

"Those are the most explosive players I've ever gone against," Howard said. "You never know. You can go up and think you have a tackle, and they slip right under your arms. They're so elusive."

On the defensive side of the ball, Howard is experiencing what he believes to be his best fall camp yet. He won't accept any of the credit for it though — that all goes to the new coaching staff.

He's a big fan of Muschamp, pointing out that he's the first defensive-minded head coach at Florida in a while.

However, it's the defensive line coaches that brought so much change with Howard. When Dan Quinn was hired as the defensive coordinator, he served last season as the defensive line coach for the Seattle Seahawks. His positive reputation was well known throughout the players, but it didn't take Howard long to find out what an impact Quinn would have on him.

"He's one of the most laid back dudes you'll ever meet," Howard said. "He's the best thing that ever happened to me in my career. He's a technician. He's getting me to where I need to be to reach my peak. He's preaching effort and finishing every play."

Quinn is the laid back coach off the field that breaks down every technique to help his players out. However, co-defensive line coach Bryant Young is a little more outgoing than that.

"Oh, you don't want him to scream," Howard said with a laugh.


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