Hunter Taking Ownership of DL

Omar Hunter is in a different setting. After being expected to produce early in his career, he is now viewed as one of the veterans on the defensive line. The young talent on the defensive line could have made Hunter a forgotten player, but his leadership and experience makes him a valuable asset. The younger players lean on him because of his veteran presence.

That doesn't make it any more normal for Hunter, though. For him, it feels like just yesterday he showed up on campus expected to be an immediate force on the 2008 defensive line.

"It's kind of weird, but I enjoy it," Omar Hunter said. "I look at myself as a leader. I'm older and I've been through a lot more things than these guys have been through. I grab them and pull them in the right way."

Hunter, a redshirt junior, has joined up with seniors William Green and Jaye Howard to provide leadership. With sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley and sophomore defensive ends Ronald Powell and Sharrif Floyd expected to start, the unit doesn't have many experienced players.

Floyd and Powell saw playing time last season, but they'll be at new positions this year. Floyd came to Florida as a defensive tackle but slid outside to defensive end when the new coaching staff thought that was the best move. Powell switched between defensive end and outside linebacker last season before finding a home at the BUCK position in the Will Muschamp defense.

The trio of upperclassmen has focused on helping the younger players this fall.

"We're the three older guys on the line," Hunter said. "We know that when things go wrong on the line, people do look toward us. I do take that challenge on."

Hunter saw the freshmen last year go through situations similar to his first season. There were plenty of big expectations, and the play didn't seem to meet it. Hunter said he took a few of the players aside last year and talked to them about the experiences of his freshman year.

In the end, players usually have to experience things for themselves. They can hear about what it's like, but until they are on the field, they can't take it to heart.

"I've always looked up to him because no matter what injury he went through, he never stopped," Dominique Easley said about Hunter. "He just kept going."

Now settled in to the college game, Hunter is heading into his redshirt junior season feeling the best he has since coming to campus. The back problems that plagued the early part of his career are now gone.

"It's fun," Hunter said. "It's something new and motivated me to come out and play harder. Going through all those things I went through just made me focus harder and made me hungrier."

Hunter also feels more confident this season. The defensive coaching staff put an emphasis on getting to the quarterback throughout the season, and the players have focused on different techniques to make that happen. Hunter joked that there are "a million" pass rushing techniques that the players have learned, but he is mostly focusing on three.

"(The coaches) put a big emphasis on getting off blocks," Hunter said.

There's a new confidence on the defensive side of the ball that the players have spoken about. Despite losing seven starters from last year's defense, there is still plenty of talent to have success. However, the confidence has been put into the team by the new coaching staff.

"It's a change," Hunter said. "We've got a fiery head coach who is more of a defensive guy. He has brought a lot of excitement to the defense."

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