Jaye Howard Growing Into the Job at DT

Jaye Howard signed with the Florida Gators in February of 2007 as a 230-pound defensive end from Orlando Jones High School. He's packed an additional 70-plus pounds onto his 6-3 frame and is now a solid second team defensive tackle for the defending BCS Champs.

Howard is now a redshirt sophomore and lines up alongside Omar Hunter as the top reserves behind Lawrence Marsh and Terron Sanders. His journey from rookie end to solid tackle was not an easy one. Howard admits he had a lot of growing up to do on and off the field to put himself in position to earn playing time and help the Gators win. He says defensive line coach Dan McCarney has pushed him hard and he's stopped pushing back.

Last season Howard played sparingly, registering just eight tackles on the season. He played more in the SEC Championship Game and says that outing told him he was ready to contribute.

I asked him about how the defensive line is coming along this spring.

"We lost some key contributors like Marsh, Sanders and even (Carlos) Dunlap, but we're jelling pretty good. Dunlap has a presence and when he's out there, even when he's not 100 percent we play different."

Howard also told me having the veteran tackles missing a lot of spring has helped him make progress.

"Actually it has helped me develop my game a little bit. My playing time was spotty with the line last year but now I'm getting rep after rep and I'm gaining."

Howard said he was surprised to get key playing time late last season.

"I wasn't expecting to get thrown in there as redshirt freshman. I went into the Alabama game at crunch time and I made some big plays. I guess that's this program. You train all year for this and when someone goes down you're next in line. It took me a long time to understand the game and get the concept of it. Now it's my time to play."

I asked Howard about how well he handled his time on the sidelines waiting for his chance to play. Suffice to say not very well.

"I was pouting. I pouted a lot last year because I wanted to play, but I wasn't ready. I had to gain maturity and I learned that I wasn't ready. So I started coming in extra and watching more film and talking to the coach about what I needed to improve on."

Howard sayid one particularly tough moment came when McCarney got all over him in front of a special observer.

"I never had this happen to me before, but he cussed me out in front of my dad. It took me to learn from that, no one is going to give you anything. I was just acting like a little kid and it made me want to work harder."

Jaye Howard is right on target for when most linemen are supposed to be ready to play at this level. As a third year sophomore he's had enough time to mature emotionally and physically and still has three years of playing time ahead of him. Dan McCarney would love to have five tackles ready to go opening day. There's no question that Jaye Howard will be one of them.

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