Howard's Improvement Comes With Hard Work

The entire starting defensive unit of the Florida Gators returned to defend their national championship in football for 2009. However, that doesn't mean there won't be some changes in that unit when the season starts in less than two weeks. One of the key battles is at defensive tackle and Jaye Howard has been making huge improvements in his play. The results may mean a start come game one.

Terron Sanders started at defensive tackle last season and Sanders has also improved this offseason and fall. But Jaye Howard is one of those guys with the tools that defensive line coaches love and someone that is a real play maker on the inside. Howard's improvement has him earmarked for a starting role right now, but he understands the team concept and is just trying to do whatever he can to help the Gators repeat as national champions.

"We push each other," Howard said of him and Sanders. "At the end of the day he is my teammate, we are just making each other better. We are just trying to get better and help the team."

Howard understands the depth thing and how it can benefit him and the team in the long run.

"It helps a lot, especially if a team runs a lot," Howard said. "You can come in and get three snaps and go as hard as you can and know that the next guy can keep it up."

Howard has improved all facets of his game since making the switch from defensive end to tackle in the middle of last season. It was something he rejected at first, but the fact is he couldn't stop gaining the weight that was keeping him down on the outside. Now, he uses his quickness as a former end to be a player on the inside.

"I think I have gotten better playing the run and think I am doing that as well as I have since I have been here," Howard said. "They have me slanting a lot in our defense and that is helping me use my quickness"

My pass rush I have improved tremendously. Going into fall camp I stayed after and worked with the coaches and it's been working so far. I just wasn't beating anyone, and now I am. From making the move from end to the inside you are much quicker than the guards and I just use my finesse to get around them."

Although he fought it, Head Coach Urban Meyer figured from the beginning that Howard would be playing on the inside. It didn't take Hoard long to go from his reporting weight of 240 pounds as a freshman to 269 pounds during that first season. And that was while he was fighting to keep the weight off.

"Coach Meyer recruited me and he thought it would be a natural transition," Howard said. "He thought I was going to be a defensive tackle when he recruited me."

It now appears that he is going to be a very good defensive tackle and one that may start on opening day.

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