FOOTBALL: Earl Everett talks defense

Last season a freshman linebacker emerged as the heart and soul of the defense. It was apparent early that Channing Crowder was going to be a force for the Gators. A year later, Crowder is still the darling of the UF defense, but he isn't alone. Out there roaming the outside of the defense is an outside linebacker with more speed and maybe even more upside than even Crowder. Earl Everett was a mainstay on the Gator defense last year and may be important to the defense this year than anyone.

We asked Earl Everett about his progression from being an undersized and inexperienced linebacker to one that has added 25 pounds or so and knows a lot more of what he is doing. "I'm 100% better. I am bigger, stronger, and a lot faster. I gained a lot of weight. This year I can react, while last year I had to think about everything with all the plays thrown at me."

The primary role of the position is what anyone expects, and Earl was emphatic about it. "Basically playing linebacker we are here to stop the run. A lo of teams try to run it up our gut, so Channing, Travis, me and the young guys are focusing on stopping the run." Still there are skills he possesses that will allow him to do some special things this year. "They have me blitzing and dropping in coverage a little more than last year. Coach Miller thinks I can cover pretty well, so I will be doing some of that."

Playing next to Crowder and Travis Harris is something he cherishes and feels very comfortable with. "It's a great experience. Travis is a great veteran and he has been here before. He brings a lot of leadership. Channing, even being a sophomore, is one of the top leaders of the defense."

What does Earl want the coaches to think about him when he is out there playing ball and knocking heads? "I want them to think I am a tough player that will get after it." His expectations for the defense are, "to get better across the board and start with third down conversions." He goes on to say that the defense is, "Intense, and everybody is hungry."

We asked Coach Miller what makes Earl Everett an exceptional player. He said, without hesitation: "He's explosive; he's got that burst that coaches look for. Explosion when he changes direction. He can make a cut to make a play in a back that cuts back or really accelerate to make a play on the ball in the air." On areas of concern, he said, "He's getting more physical and that is a very encouraging thing. In the scrimmage the other day, he missed a tackle and he was mad at himself. He came back and just knocked the living 'you know what' out of the ball carrier on the next play." He finished with a note of confidence abut Earl and his ability to play in the system. "He also really understands the game and has his feet on the ground about the system we are running out here."

Earl Everett is a special athlete. He has an uncanny combination of size, speed, agility, and acceleration that may make him the best player on the entire field by the end of the season.

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