University of Florida Gators
Staten Island, New York
Curtis High School
One of the hardest workers in the Florida Gators program, the injury bug that wiped out the team's 2013 campaign included their versatile lineman, but when healthy, he has been a terror occupying interior blockers two- and three-at-a-time. The Staten Island native was a coveted recruit that has played a big part in the team's success, but his absence from the lineup has also had an adverse effect.
Because of an assortment of injuries, Easley has never played a full season in the four that he has worn a Gators uniform. With the lineman starting at a variety of positions (has lined up at nose tackle, strong-side defensive end, strong-side tackle and weak-side tackle, earning playing time with the first unit at each spot) and on the field, Florida enjoyed a 22-10 record (.6875 winning percentage). With Easley on the sidelines, the Gators could manage only an 8-11 mark (.421 winning percentage).
Easley was the first player from the New York City area to receive a five-star prospect ranking since former Green Bay Packers and Ohio State standout tailback John Brockington was a senior at Brooklyn's Thomas Jefferson High School in 1965. Easley was rated the second-best defensive tackle in the country by Scout.com during his senior campaign at Staten Island's Curtis High School.
As a junior, Easley delivered 51 tackles with 10 sacks and an interception. He also returned a pair of fumbles for touchdowns. As a senior, he was credited with 53 tackles, 16 sacks, one fumble recovery and an interception he ran back for a score. He received EA Sports All-American honors after leading Curtis High to the 2009 Public Schools Athletic League championship. At the 2010 Under Armour All-American Game, he was named Most Valuable Player.
Easley rejected scholarship offers from the New England area colleges and was lured to the University of Florida by assistant coach Steve Addazio, signing his national letter of intent on January 2nd, 2010. He arrived with great fanfare, but strangely, the coaches limited him to just six games as a reserve strong-side defensive end, as he finished with only four tackles.
Easley started all 12 regular season games at strong-side defensive tackle in 2011, but in the Florida State contest, he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and did not play in the postseason. He registered 37 tackles with 1.5 sacks, 7.5 stops for loss and three quarterback pressures before watching Florida defeat Ohio State in the Gator Bowl.
His grueling rehabilitation actually made Easley much quicker when he arrived for 2012 fall camp. Noticing his consistent explosion off the snap, the staff shifted him to strong-side end, where he started 11 contests. Another knee injury forced him to miss most of the Tennessee game and sit out vs. Kentucky, but among his 26 tackles for the season were a career-high four sacks, along with 8.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
A regular in the training room while preparing to return in 2013, Easley's right knee was the cause for him missing nine games in 2013. He managed just five tackles through his first three contests, but underwent surgery to repair the meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament. Without Easley to lead a young defense, Florida lost seven of the nine games without him in the lineup.
In the earliest declaration from the 102 underclassmen that would leave college after 2013 instead of returning to school next season, on September 30th, Easley announced that he would not be returning to the university and declared for the 2014 NFL Draft. The injury suffered in practice prior to Florida meeting Kentucky was the biggest factor in his decision.
After the injury occurred, Easley and Florida head coach Will Muschamp sat down to talk about the future. It was the second ACL tear for Easley in his time at Florida, with the first one coming vs. Florida State at the end of the 2011 season. The two tears in his career were in different knees. Easley was off to a quick start in 2013. He was one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the country through three weeks and was receiving talk from NFL Draft writers as a potential pick in the top half of the first round.
With the injury being his second serious one since coming to Florida, Easley and Muschamp both felt like it was in his best interest to start his career at the next level.
"He's a guy that's had two ACLs," Muschamp said. "I think that's the best move for him right now and going to prepare himself for April and get ready for that. He and I talked briefly about it and that's what he wants to do. I support it 100 percent."
Easley created havoc for Florida on the defensive line because of his quick burst after the ball was snapped. He's listed at 285 pounds, making him smaller than the average NFL defensive tackle, but scouts were still impressed with what he was showing through the first three games this year. He could see time as a three-technique defensive tackle or defensive end in a 3-4 set in the NFL.
His career at Florida took off after the coaches moved him exclusively to the defensive tackle position. The player just felt that with under seven months left to prepare before the NFL Draft, professional teams would have time to review his medical records. "He'll have plenty of interest," Muschamp said. "He'll be a productive guy on the next level. He's a really good football player. He's extremely intelligent. He gets the game. His tape speaks for itself and how he plays the game and approaches the game. He'll be fine. There will be a lot of organizations that want him in their organization."
Easley started 26-of-32 games that he appeared in for Florida, recording 72 tackles (38 solos) with 5.5 sacks for minus 26 yards, 18 stops for losses of 60 yards and nine quarterback pressures…Also recovered one fumble that he advanced one yard and deflected one pass.