Lawing has respect of defensive line

When Jonathan Bullard was a senior in high school, Brad Lawing made him a promise. Then the defensive line coach at South Carolina, Lawing told the five-star defensive end that he would play for him in college. Bullard laughed it off, thought it was a typical recruiting tactic and didn't think about it until January 2013. That's when Lawing joined the Florida staff as the defensive line coach.

"Bullard, I'm going to coach you. I am going to coach you," Jonathan Bullard remembered hearing from Brad Lawing over the phone.

After Lawing took the defensive line coach job in Gainesville and was setting things up in his office one day in January, he was walking through the facility when he ran into the sophomore defensive lineman. Lawing smiled and remembered that conversation, and although South Carolina finished behind Clemson and Florida in his recruitment, the promise came true earlier this year.

"Bullard, I didn't think it was going to be here, but didn't I tell you I was going to coach you?" Lawing said with a laugh earlier this year.

Since he joined the coaching staff in January, Lawing's presence has been felt on the recruiting trail and with the current roster. He brought new ideas to the Florida defense, specifically in the pass rush. The call from Florida head coach Will Muschamp came after preparing against Lawing's defensive lines in the previous two years.

The evidence on tape of the Gamecocks' defensive line showed unique pass rushes, but the production was always there. Lawing, a technician while coaching, always got the best out of his players.

The Florida defensive line is seeing it this year.

"He brought a lot of good things," Florida defensive end Dante Fowler said. "He's been coaching 30 some years. He coached a lot of greats, like Jadeveon (Clowney) and Melvin Ingram, some players I look up to a lot. His pass rush, the stuff he gives us, some things I never even knew about. Some techniques and stuff is helping me and other guys in our pass rush."

The attention to detail is what makes the Florida defensive linemen feel better this year. Lawing preaches about hands and hips. He wants the linemen to have active hands but know how to use them in ways that will get them into the backfield easier. The hips breed explosion and help the linemen get off the ball faster at the snap.

For Bullard, his hips were an issue last year. He was better in the run game and made plays that way, but he wants to take a leap in the pass rush this season, despite leading the Gators with eight quarterback hurries last season. The hip work goes a long way in making him faster off the ball to chase the quarterback.

"He does a lot of stuff with my hands and hip work," Bullard said. "Me being a bigger end, I didn't always have the best hips last year setting the edge of the pass rush. I was more of a run stop guy last year. I feel like my hips are getting better for me this year. Every time Coach Lawing says something, most of the time it's about hips. Now he's got me saying hips a lot."

"(Lawing) has got some good attributes that he's putting in my game that I didn't have last year."

The natural progression from freshman to sophomore year should help Bullard and Fowler get after the quarterback more this season. Ronald Powell is also healthy after his ACL tear and is drawing rave reviews from the practice field. Despite the loss of both starting defensive tackles last year, the Gators will slide Dominique Easley inside to tackle and add pass rush there.

The one weakness on the defense last year could turn into the strength this year, as the Gators know how to attack the quarterback. A large part of it is from the addition of Lawing.

"We had a good pass rush last year, but of course, we want to be better and get better," Bullard said. "Having Powell and back and Fowler on the end, we're going to be pretty good. We've just got to go."

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