With the Florida Gators starting spring practice for the 2011 season last Wednesday, the school made a number of the team’s defense players available to the media as the second week of action began on Monday. There was a noticeable excitement in the air about the possibilities in Florida’s new defense under head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, as evidenced by some of the notable news and quotes provided during the press sessions.
SOPHOMORES FINALLY ADJUSTED
Though sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd seemed to adjust well in 2010, the same cannot be said for linebacker/defensive end Ronald Powell and DT Dominique Easley. Powell buckled down and got more opportunities to see the field later in the year, but Easley appeared to be a problem off the field who needed to get his head on straight and get his mind in the game. Months later, all seems well with the trio of five-star players who are ready and focused to compete in 2011.
“I don’t think it was a case of us not being focused last year,” Floyd said. “New coming into a program, fresh out of high school, we had to get adjusted to things and I think we all got the gist of it.” He noted that, after the season was over, everything came together for the group. With Floyd improving his game and Powell happy in the new system (see below), the only question that remains is Easley’s level of dedication. He was not made available on Monday, and Floyd deflected questions about him when asked.
“He’s my roommate; he’s my brother. I take care of him; he takes care of me. He looks after me; I look after him,” he said, before responding to whether or not Easley is completely on board this year. “That’s a question for him. I know he’s a lot more focused than last year. He’s seeing the big picture now.”
Speaking of Powell and Floyd, both players are going to be counted on to have a major impact on the defense in 2011. Powell is already noticing the differences and is excited about the possibilities. “It’s a great fit for me. A great fit. Dan Quinn and Bryant Young, they’re great coaches. The system that they’re running is a great fit,” he said. “I’m loving it. Loving it. It’s more freedom. You don’t have to have your hand in the ground all the time. You can stand up. It’s kind of my choice.” Powell, playing buck linebacker, will have options of standing up, putting his hand down, dropping or rushing; this will allow him to take advantage of his athleticism to cover the field and cause maximum damage.
Like his teammate, Floyd has cut out poor habits (such as standing up too high, not being physical enough and not using his hands correctly) and is more focused on doing what it takes to succeed. “I had a lot of bad tendencies last year,” he said. “That was my fault, obviously. Listening to [Young] and getting in his ear, wanting to learn what he knows – that’s helping me a lot more play with my hands and stay lower, things like that.”
THOUGHTS ON THE NEW DEFENSE
Junior LB Jon Bostic: “The main thing with this defense is [that it’s] backwards and forwards. If you play Mike, you play Will. A guy may motion across; you can go from being the Mike to the Will. A lot of the stuff – you got to know everything.”
Senior DE William Green: “I like it a lot. I’m really excited about what we’re doing.”
Redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins: “I like it a lot. It seems like it really frees up the linebackers and allows us to run a little bit. […] We’re going to be the same defense that we’ve always been at Florida. We’re going to run, hit hard, keep being relentless and be aggressive. That’s kind of how we’ve always been; that’s not going to be a difference.”
Redshirt junior DE/LB Lerentee McCray*: “I love the new defense. You’ve just got to see it on the field. It’s a different concept, a different style of defense.”
Bostic on playing for his third defensive coordinator: “I like it because I’m actually getting to learn different types of defenses, how different coaches coach different defenses. It’s not really a change to me; I kind of see it as another learning aspect.”
Bostic on how the team is progressing: “Everybody’s picking up. It’s going pretty fast, but everybody’s helping each other out. We’re trying to talk a lot more out there than we did. Everybody’s got to help everybody.”
Green on Quinn: “I like him a lot. He’s a real good technician guy. He’s a real good high-energy guy, and a real good person, too. I’m enjoying the coaches a lot.”
Green on stepping up to be a leader: “I feel like I’m four years older than everybody out there. It’s time to be an example for all the young guys. This is my time to step up and really help the team.”
McCray on playing the buck position*: “It’s helping my career. It’s easy to adjust to both [linebacker and defensive end]. I like it. It gives me the opportunity to do the things a linebacker does, and rush and drop into coverage. I like playing it.”
Redshirt freshman Gerald Christian on moving to linebacker^: “At first I didn’t know why, but they told me it’s the best fit for the team. They need big bodies playing linebacker, so they wanted to try me out there. I’m No. 1 on the depth chart right now, but I’ve still got to earn the position. Nothing’s set in stone, but I feel like I’m going to bust my butt every day.”
Attribution: Quotes without marks were acquired by OGGOA. Those marked with * are courtesy of The Gainesville Sun, and those with a ^ are courtesy of the Palm Beach Post.