Means to an end for Easley

Senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley is looking for a big year in his last one at Florida. The Staten Island, New York All-SEC candidate wants to turn his final year at Florida into a championship one, but also a season that will propel him into a long and prosperous future in the sport he loves. His unfinished business led him back to Florida for his final year and for many reasons.

Momma is a big deal for Dominique Easley. Even at 6-3 and 285 pounds, he calls himself a ‘Momma's boy'. That is why when his momma says she really wants him to get his college degree, it is a big priority for a guy that tries to eat ball carriers for lunch on Saturday afternoons.

"She wants to see me walk across the stage, that's the biggest thing," Easley said earlier in the week adding that he is scheduled to graduate in the Spring of 2014.

It was a big dilemma at first for him in December and January, but projected as a 3rd or 4th rounder, Easley believes he can turn another year into one that sets him up better for the future. That move hasn't been an easy one, especially without his good friend Sharrif Floyd who was part of the same 2010 recruiting class and his best friend on campus over the last three years.

"Somewhat (harder) that Sharrif left," Easley said when asked if things have been tough. "It is a big difference that he left because he is the person I always hung out with."

He made the choice to stay after thinking up to the last minute about going, He was persuaded by his good friend to stick it out.

"Just stay in college and have fun, because it's all business," Easley said were the words of wisdom from Floyd after just a couple of weeks of being on the other side of the fence.

Easley knows what he has to work on to become a more complete player and work his way up the NFL draft boards.

"I need to get stronger faster, and be a smarter player," he said. "I just need to play really."

He's also happy about being back inside at defensive tackle after spending last year on the edge as an end. It was a tough process for him as he was really of the mindset to stay on the edge in his last season. Now he knows and can show his ability to play multiple places on the line of scrimmage and he wants to use that to his advantage.

"That's where I originally started so I would say I am much more advanced inside than outside," he said. "It doesn't bother me (playing inside again). All you are doing is teaching me new things and make me more of an intelligent person. It all boils down to me and how I come at it. I could say no and not work at it and screw myself or be the best at what they want me to be.

Which one does he prefer to play?

"I really don't know I just like to play," he said.

Last season was tough, especially in the beginning. Coming off a knee injury that hobbled him heading into the season, Easley didn't play to his full potential early on. He didn't go all out, something he is looking forward to doing in 2013.

"It was more of a mental thing," he said of coming back from the injury. "I wasn't so confident in myself because of the injury. I think it will be much better.

"I have to give it everything. I can't have any regrets at the end."

With a young son, there is a lot more weighing on his decision making process than the normal college student and college football player. It makes meeting his potential that much more important to him.

"My whole goal is for me to get to the point to take care of my family," Easley said. "A lot of people do what they do because they want to love what they do and take care of their family.

Another goal of course is a ring… as in championship ring. Florida had a really great season in 2012 going in 11-1 in the regular season and finishing third in the country after the regular season was over, but lost to rival Georgia for the second year in a row. Beating the Bulldogs is something the Gators have racing through their minds constantly… a product of the coaching staff that has placed extra importance on the revenge factor.

"Before every work out we have something under our board (in the weight room) that says 17-9," he said echoing the final score of the Florida-Georgia game in 2012. "We all feel it. That was one game that determined our whole season, so it wasn't a happy feeling.

"That's a big game because we haven't beaten Georgia in two years so we have to turn the tables," he said. "Every year we expect to beat Georgia so every year we have to do it."

What will be the difference this season?

"Experience," he intimated. "We know what was going wrong and going right and we learned from it."

Florida will rely on a good bit of youth on defense after a mass exodus to the NFL from that side of the roster. However, last season the Florida staff made sure to play some of the youth on the squad and fond some experience for the younger guys that would play a big part this season. They played and performed well and now they will be relied on to perform at a high level in 2013.

"It's my last and you always want to make the last your best," Easley said. "The younger guys understand what the seniors want."

"We had all the younger guys play behind the veteran guys so they would learn what the expectations were. I am pretty sure they will live up to it."

Easley knows that he has to be a big part of a strong season and helping the younger guys. He knows it will be a little bit of a process without Floyd around.

"I need to communicate and try and build better relationships with the people next to me. Sharrif and I already had that, so I need to build that same relationship.

"We have all been bonding, so I think it is going to come faster than what people expect."

Easley stays away from the leader moniker. He's just a guy that wants to prove himself by his play on the field and for others to follow that lead. That doesn't mean he doesn't help the younger guys out when he can.

"I don't go by the whole leader thing," he said. "I just try to be myself. I am just me that's all. In order for you to be a leader, you have to lead by example.

"I try to give them every bit of information that I know to help them out. If that is what leadership is then yes. I also take in things from them."

Easley stepped away from the outside at defensive end to move inside. It is a move that should help him and his future, but also help Florida with the current personnel the Gators can throw on the field.

With him inside, sophomores Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler should be able to wreak havoc on the outside. The two played a lot as true freshmen in 2012 and now are expected to have big seasons in 2013. Easley has high praise for the two young guys.

"I love playing with them," he said. "They want it. I have never seen two young guys that want it like that. They want it as if they were veterans and know the game."

Dominique Easley spent the better part of the last two years believing he would be playing the NFL this season. That all changed and due to circumstances, some beyond his control, he has a new time line and a new set of goals for the season. And, like his teammates, he wants it more than ever.

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