Jelani Loves His Linemen

If you want to make a great linebacker look even greater put him behind a good defensive line. Jelani Jenkins will agree with that and through game one, the team's leading tackler knows just who to brag on when they talk about the success of the defense at Florida. Florida's defensive line came out and played well Saturday in The Swamp and Jenkins was giddy after the game about it.

The Florida Gators held the Florida Atlantic Owls to 137 yards of total offense and just three points in a 41-3 smacking in front of about 90,000 in Gainesville. Jelani Jenkins said they were doing just about everything they wanted to do in the game.

"We played really well," he said. "I was real happy with our performance. I think we stopped the run and did a fine job. We just played hard and stuck to the plan. We played fast physical football, and that is just what we do.

"It feels good, we were also trying to figure out our identity and how we were going to play against an opponent. It was good to get that out of the way and see how we play against other people. We are going to celebrate our victory and just going to go next week and get a little better."

The defensive line consisted of two interior linemen in Dominique Easley who won the team defensive MVP award for the game as well as Jaye Howard, who won the SEC's defensive lineman of the week award. Those two along with several others that played well made things easier for Jenkins and the linebackers.

"They played outstanding," Jenkins said of the line. "They kept the (offensive) linemen off the linebackers and they allowed us to get over the top and play fast. I love them and am very proud of them.

"I think they will be outstanding and one of the best in the country. I have the utmost confidence in them. They are my best friends. I talk to them all the time and we go through plays. They help me out and I help them out. We play as a family… as brothers."

One thing the rest of the defense feeds off of is the amount of fun the guys up front seem to have during the game or any time really.

"I love them and I really enjoy playing behind them," Jenkins said. "They love to have fun and the guys behind them see that and it makes us play better. It makes us loosen up a little bit and play faster."

Jenkins and most of the players on this squad could not wait to get out there and play someone besides themselves who they have lined up against in the offseason since January. They also were anxious to make some kind of statement, which he felt they did.

"I was very excited," he said about playing the game. "We have been waiting to hit someone that weren't our own teammates for a long time. It was very important because we had a lot to prove. I think we showed a lot of people around the world what we have to prove. We just have to go back to work and still get better."

As for the defense that Gator fans saw on Saturday, we will see a lot more complexity moving forward.

"We kept it really basic," Jenkins said. "We were prepared for what the offense had coming to us. There wasn't really anything different from what we saw on film, so we kept it really basic."

Even with the basic, Jenkins had two huge plays in a row. One was a hit that made everyone in the stadium take notice. The other was a perfect break on a pass that actually hit both hands and dropped agonizingly to the ground. Jenkins said he saw pay dirt in front of him if he had just hauled in the pass.

"I really wanted that one," he said. "After I dropped that one I saw there was nobody there along the sideline. I got to get one next week."

And all of the excitement and anticipation drips down from the head coach. Will Muschamp was getting ovations at the game Saturday for his rants on the sideline at officials and things going on during the game. Jenkins says that Muschamp is a guy he can trust and wants to follow.

"I love the intensity," Jenkins said. "He is passionate. If he gets upset it's nothing personal. He brings us up and motivates us. He is the first to pat you on your back when you do good and first one to let you know when you didn't."

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