Dante Fowler showed up for Media Days in Hoover (Ala.) with an orange bow tie and a big smile. Looking a svelte 6-foot-3 and 262 pounds, Fowler was excited to get his turn at SEC Media Days as a representative of the University of Florida following in the footsteps of former teammate Dominique Easley.
“It is an honor being here and representing UF,” Fowler said with smile in front of throngs of media. “(When I was) a freshman and I am a junior now, seeing Easley and them here… I know it is the SEC so it is really serious.”
Fowler looks like he has really hit the weight room and toned up muscle, even his face is without the baby fat that he came to school with three years ago. He has his body in game form right now.“I feel pretty good,” he said for telling how he has prepared himself physically better than ever “No McDonalds (with a smile), it is the strongest I have ever been, fastest I’ve ever been, and quickest I’ve been. We are having off-field conditioning and Coach Dillman has us going well. I am 6-foot-3 and 262, and the last time I ran the forty, I ran a 4.58.
“I look pretty good now, I have a little beach abs, I can go to the beach and rip off my shirt and everything.”Fowler led by example a year ago went down with an injury before game four of the season. He understands the thing he has to do and is willing to do them for a season he expects to be a good one.
“My expectations for Dante Fowler are to be a leader, put his school back where we are used to (being), and get back to the SEC Championship,” he said.
Over the last two years the Gators have sported three nasty defensive linemen that are now playing their game in the NFL. Easley Ronald Powell, and Sharrif Floyd were high character guys that also made a lot of noise on the field and enjoyed helping the younger guys on the team, Fowler included.
“Easley and Sharrif coached me up to be the player I am now, so why wouldn’t I do that for the younger guys,” Fowler said. “I am an upper classman now, I try to take things that Powell and Sharrif taught me. Now I know the game and can show some of the young guys how to do it.”
There is always a growth process when helping someone new. It is a learning cure for the teacher and student but Fowler was mentored by some of the best and expects to make it happen.
“I take them (under my wing), but everyone isn’t from the same place. You have to figure them out,” he said. “You find out how to coach up the guys. It helps you teach them and it helps the chemistry with you and that player.”
As for this team and the 2014 season, Fowler likes what he sees from his Florida teammates.
“Everyone is coming together and gelling together,” he said. “It feels good, the atmosphere is good.
“The spring was really good. We had some players really develop. Some redshirt guys didn’t get a chance to play. They are getting to the next level and the team to the next level. Getting there has been an advantage for us this spring.
“We have a lot of great guys on defense. I feel comfortable on defense because a lot of guys have been here for a year and a half. We have a lot of good players that can come in like Bryan Cox, Jarrad Davis, Jonathan Bullard, Jalen Tabor, we have a lot of great guys.”
Head coach Will Muschamp has fielded a top ten defense every year he has been at Florida. However, his offenses have been ranked 100 or lower nationally as well. Fowler thinks it is time for a turnaround, especially with quarterback Jeff Driskel.
“The expectations for the offense are good,” Fowler said. “They will do their job and we will do our job. We have their back like they will have our back.
“When you lose the starting quarterback it will be different. There is a better chemistry with the starter. Just seeing Driskel throwing the ball out there it looks good.
“I feel like everyone is more comfortable. Like Driskel is back and comfortable. We have a lot of great athletes like Demarcus Robinson and Quinton Dunbar, while Driskel can really throw the ball. Being able to show their athletic abilities is fun to see.”
The new fast-paced and spread offense has been difficult for Fowler and the defense since offensive coordinator Kurt Roper took over back in January.
“It is tough, they have their gadgets that they can do and it is our job to stop it,” Fowler said. “We aren’t familiar with the offense and so it is good because Coach Roper is going against Coach Durkin, like we are going against the offense.
There was a lot of talk in Hoover about the job security of Muschamp. Two sub-par seasons out of three will do that to a coach. Fowler and company seemed focused more on the season at hand.
“That is something we aren’t worried about,” Fowler said. “We are a team and have our things to worry about.
“If people really knew him, he’s a great guy. If things were to happen, I wouldn’t want to see it. Our job is to keep our coach’s job safe, keep Gator Nation safe, and keeping you guys happy. That’s all we want to do is win.
Fowler is very fond of his head coach and the way he coaches the game.
“It is fun playing for Coach Muschamp,” Fowler said. “He is a great coach and a defensive minded coach. That is what caught my eye coming out of high school. The way he works his defense, he is very versatile, with multiple defenses.
“It’s business as normal. We don’t listen to the outside. We are all we’ve got, my brothers and the coaching staff. Our job is to fight adversity, to make the Gators happy, and to get Florida back on top where it is supposed to be. When we do things like that, there are no worries about his job.“
Muschamp, Fowler, and company are excited about the 2014 season. Anything to get away from a 4-8 season and a seven game losing streak to end the season. The start of the season could dictate the rest of the way. The gators go on the road in game four and five to Alabama and Tennessee, Fowler is looking to start like they had in 2012.
“It is fair,” he said of the early season schedule and the two road games early. “In 2012 we went to Tennessee and won, went to Texas A&M and won. I think it is very comparable, maybe not as hard, but similar. They are two great stadiums and whenever you can go on the road in the SEC and win it just boosts your confidence.”
This off-season seems to have boost the confidence of a lot of the Gators.