Fowler putting together strong spring

Dante Fowler loves to bug Will Muschamp. Every day after practice, the sophomore defensive end walks up to Muschamp with the same question – ‘what can I do to get better?' He has the same question for his position coaches. That drive to improve and spend extra time in the film room has turned into a breakout spring for Fowler, but it all started with that simple question for the coaches.

"I just want to get better, so anything that I can do, I go to (Muschamp) or my defensive coordinator or my defensive line coach," Dante Fowler said. "That's just the type of player I am. I do anything I can do to get better as a player."

It started when Fowler was young. His dad coached him a lot while he was growing up and often encouraged his son to ask questions and search for what that next step would be in his development. Fowler brought that mindset with him to Gainesville, and it was a big reason he got on the field as a freshman.

"(Fowler's dad) always told me to pick my coach's brain, so I liked learning from him and just taking the advice that he gave me," Fowler said. "I pick my coach's brain. That's all I'm trying to do. That's basically just me maturing and trying to get better.

He drew rave reviews during fall camp last year. Fowler was cleared to enroll at Florida late in the summer, but once he got on the practice field, the praises came immediately. Veteran players were in awe of his first step and expected him to make an immediate impact on the season.

It didn't happen once the games began.

Fowler admitted being a step slow because he was overthinking. He didn't want to be out of position or make a mistake in the defense, so he played slow and it held him back. Around the South Carolina game, things changed.

"There was a point when I first started playing where I was a little slow, because I didn't know all the plays," Fowler said. "I was scared for Coach Muschamp to get on me and things like that. I really wasn't able to play fast.

"Towards the South Carolina game, I started to go in and watch a lot of film trying to get better, studying more. That's when I was able to play fast, because I knew everything and I had no worries or doubts. That's when I really started to play fast and make all of my plays."

Just over a month after that, the Gators made a trip to Tallahassee that meant a lot to Fowler. He went through a majority of the recruiting process committed to Florida State and flipped his decision to the Gators publicly on National Signing Day. As expected, it didn't go over that well in Tallahassee.

And when the Gators slowed up for the game in November, Fowler heard plenty about it.

"It was crazy. That week going into it and then pregame -- that was really crazy how the fans were," Fowler said. "I was kind of mad, but it really got me into the game and got me ready to play so I thank all of them for saying all that mean stuff."

Fowler has trimmed down some this spring

Fowler heard fans screaming that they hated him and calling him a traitor, along with multiple other things he didn't want to say publicly.

"At the end of the day, I chose the right place," he said with a grin.

With his freshman year behind him, Fowler wants to take the next step as an edge rusher for the Gators. He played at 275-277 pounds last season and has been 265 pounds throughout this spring, crediting a loss of "baby fat" to the drop in weight. The difference is easy to tell.

"I feel like I've got more acceleration," Fowler said. "I can play faster. I have more wind, so I'm not getting as tired as I used to. I'm feeling really good. It's a grown man's game. I wanted to get stronger in my upper body being able to play the run well.

"Learn the game more, be a smarter person. Just knowing what to do and what not to do. Not being a little rookie anymore, just being more mature."

The Florida offensive linemen trying to block him see it, too.

"Dante -- he's a freak now. He's getting better every day as well," Florida left tackle D.J. Humphries said.

Since coming to campus, Fowler's mentor on the team has been Ronald Powell. After taking a redshirt last season while rehabbing his torn ACL, Powell is expected to rejoin the team for practice during the fall. Even though Powell wasn't on the field last year, he was able to work with Fowler on learning the defense.

Powell was a big factor in the impact the freshman made in the Florida defense last season, and the two are excited to get on the field at the same time this season.

"That's like my big brother," Fowler said. "I look up to him. He talks to me a lot. He just tries to coach me up any time he can. It's nice learning from him with him being able to play the BUCK. He really had it down pat going into spring before he tore his ACL.

"He can't wait to get back out there. It's going to be real fun playing with him, too. When both of us are out there, it's going to blast going after the quarterbacks. It's going to be good."

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