"He just told me I had a fresh start," Dominique Easley said of his first conversation with Muschamp. "My plan was to do a fresh start, too. I wanted to start from the beginning and start things the right way."
Easley came to Gainesville as a highly regarded recruit, expected to make an immediate impact on the defensive line. That didn't happen. Because of immaturities that Easley admits to, he wasn't an ideal teammate or mature enough to handle the expectations put on him.
A lot of the problems were caused by homesickness. It was the first extended period of time that Easley was away from home in New York, and the culture shock got the best of him.
"It was a freshmen thing," Easley said. "Every freshman goes through it. You're homesick. I didn't think I would be that home sick. (New York) is the fast life. It's kind of slow down here—real slow. People move too slow for me."
Easley thought about leaving Florida. With the chemistry issues between the freshmen and upperclassmen on the team last year, Easley considered playing college football elsewhere.
He never acted on it, not wanting to disappoint himself.
"I thought about it, but that's what every freshman does," Easley said. "They think about leaving but then realize that's the bad choice to do. I just wouldn't let myself give up. That's a personal pride thing."
This spring allowed Easley to mature. The fresh start under Muschamp and defensive line coaches Dan Quinn and Bryant Young made things easier. He was able to change his habits off the field. Instead of going out, he now spends those hours in his playbook and talking about football with his teammates.
"I matured a lot," Easley said. "I'm making better choices. It's the decisions I'm making on the football field and off the football field. I'm just working the game. Plus, I stay in and just think about football 24-7."
His teammates see the difference, too.
Omar Hunter has served as a mentor to Easley throughout the process because of similar situations each faced in their freshmen seasons. Hunter was a five-star defensive tackle that was singled out as the key to the 2008 season. He came to campus and experienced back problems that kept him out and didn't let him live up to the expectations.
Maturing through the trials of last season has helped Easley become a better teammate, too.
"Ten steps forward," Hunter said of Easley's progress. "He's definitely more mature. He has the right mind going into the season, and he knows we're counting on him to play a lot. He's stepping up. He's just going out and working hard. He's not talking as much. When he does talk, he's not complaining about anything. He's just having fun and playing."
Easley and Hunter now share time on the interior of the defensive line. The two are joining Jaye Howard as the three players who will see the most time at defensive tackle this season, while Sharrif Floyd will slide outside and start at defensive end.
For a defensive line that struggled to pressure the quarterback last season, Easley thinks the pass rush could come from the inside this year.
"Technique-wise, we're way wiser," Easley said. "As far as reading the offensive linemen, we're way better coached at that. We emphasize that it starts up front first, so we're trying to make that statement."