"The position that I played, they wanted to see more from it," Ronald Powell said. "They wanted me to play faster and more physical. I knew I had to do more, and it was something I felt already myself."
Will Muschamp wasn't surprised that Powell played slow during the first two games. The BUCK position in his defense is tough for even experienced players to pick up. It combines playing pass coverage while standing up before the snap with putting a hand in the round and rushing the quarterback.
Powell has more freedom at the BUCK position than any other position on the defense, but that means there is more for him to read. Processing all of the information can be tough and made Powell play slow.
"I was just thinking and doing a lot of things," Powell said. "I was thinking before I reacted to things. It was just taking it from the classroom onto the field and then just going with it."
Things changed before the Tennessee game. Powell credits a good week of preparation and a lot of film, but he was in the backfield more against the Volunteers than the first two games combined.
Powell split a sack with Jaye Howard and also recorded two quarterback hurries, one of which pushed Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray out of the pocket, where he threw an interception to Florida safety Josh Evans.
"Quinn and I sat down, and he showed me a lot of examples of how he wanted my ball to be," Powell said. "I just took it from there and played the way I can play."
As the Florida lead grew, the linemen were able to focus on the pass rush. Tennessee abandoned the run early and put freshman Marlin Lane in at running back because of his improved pass catching skills over Tauren Poole.
Once that happened, the Florida defensive line smelled blood in the water.
"It gets better because we know we can open it up and not worry about the run so much," Powell said. "We can go into our pass rush stuff and come together."
The defense also got a boost from the return of Sharrif Floyd. The defensive end returned after a two-game suspension from the NCAA and made an immediate impact.
"It's always good to have my boy back," Powell said. "We're all real close, and we were missing him."
Dominique Easley has been the most disruptive lineman for the Gators this season, but that isn't just because of what he does during the play. His dancing on the field during games and practices has kept the team energized.
Powell said it's not uncommon for opposing offensive linemen to ask why the Florida defense dances so much, and it's usually Easley who leads the charge.
"He's a special character," Powell said. "You don't know what Easley's going to do out there. He's dancing, and he's talking. That's just the kind of player he is."