Florida rising sophomore defensive end/linebacker Ronald Powell is delivering a strong message to the SEC about the Gators’ young defensive line.
“As individuals, we’re good players, but together we can be great,” Powell said.
“Once you get that chemistry, it’s going to be unstoppable.”
It’s a message that was supposed to be delivered last season. Powell was the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the 2010 class, while interior teammates Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd were two of the top defensive tackles in the country.
Each arrived in Gainesville with mounds of expectations and most felt it was just a matter of time before all three took significant reps during the season.
That never happened.
Attitude issues for Powell and Easley, including both missing part of a practice during the beginning of the season, hindered playing time. Floyd, who was admittedly homesick at one point last year, made the biggest contributions for the Gators last season, recording 23 tackles, including eight for a loss. After Powell moved from end to linebacker, his playing time increased, as he finished the season with 25 tackles and a sack.
Easley had a rocky first season and even found himself getting suspended from the team by former coach Urban Meyer.
Now, equipped with new attitudes and supported by a new coaching staff, the three are ready to grow and cause major headaches for opposing offensive lines and backfields.
There’s no question the three have the disruptive talent. Easley has the tremendously fast first step and quickness. Powell has freakish athleticism and speed. And Floyd, who dropped 30 pounds to get to 290, has the strength to push by guards and centers.
All of that was on display Saturday during Florida’s Orange and Blue Debut. Anchoring the Orange defense, the three consistently dominated the Blue offensive line, helping to cause the Blue team to set a record for the fewest points (13) and pass completions (six) in the history of the Gators’ spring game.
Floyd had a game-high four tackles, including three for loss. Easley and Powell didn’t record any tackles, but they provided a ton of pressure thoughout the day.
“It was amazing. We all got after it,“ Floyd said. “We did what we normally do.”
That’s great, but it’s not enough. Coach Will Muschamp not only wants them to excel physically, he wants them to evolve mentally.
“Instead of just playing the game, they need to start learning the game,” Muschamp said. “They need to understand situations. They need to understand stances. They need to understand steps. Those are the things that they need to do a great job (improving) in the offseason.”
Floyd said reps in practices will only take this group so far. With the long offseason here, Floyd said film sessions will be crucial. Time will be used studying different tendencies of offensive linemen, how opponents attack opposing defensive lines, what every offensive player can do in certain situations and how different backfields function.
The next step will be taking that knowledge and mastering the skill of figuring out on the fly what teams will do during live situations.
Taking thinking out of the process is what Floyd said will help this unit shine this fall. And when it does, this could be a pretty scary group for opposing offenses to deal with.
“Once we get that down and there’s no more thinking, we know what’s coming and we play it, we will be completely unstoppable,” he said.