A handful of Florida Gators football players met with the media on Wednesday to discuss the team’s upcoming home game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday.
Kentucky may be 1-2 heading into the contest, but redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio made sure it was known that Florida has no intention of overlooking a league opponent like they did to a non-conference competitor last season.
“We’ve just been through too much. We just have too much at stake for the amount of work we put in for this season,” he said. “[We learned from the Furman game last year] to not take any team lightly. Any team can be beaten at any time.”
Halapio said the difference this season is the team’s focus. “I feel like we just have more of the ‘want to’ this year. We’re willing to give it our all and keep this winning going. We just don’t want that feeling again, that bad feeling we had last year,” he said.
DEFENSIVE LINE COMING TOGETHER
The Gators’ defensive line played as well as it has in quite some time last weekend, getting pressure with just four rushers and shutting down the run over the latter portion of the game. Redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said this week that he attributes the line’s improvement to the overall depth that it has this season.
“Coach did a really good job getting a lot of guys ready to play this year. And those guys have stepped up. We give those guys a break when they need it, and it’s really working for us right now,” he said.
Hunter contends that he is playing 20 fewer snaps per game than he did a year ago because of the rotation that has been established. He said he is fresh late in games and even after games, too, adding that the unit being “very mature and together” has given them plenty of flexibility.
“We haven’t been selfish with one person being all about themselves or another guy out for themselves. Everyone is doing their job and playing their roles. That’s why we’re having success right now,” he said.
YOUNG LINEMAN STEPPING UP
Though junior Dominique Easley does play inside in certain formations, his move to the outside has been a nice boost for Florida’s pass rush. He only has one sack and two quarterback hurries on the season but has been a disruptive force overall.
“He knows what he’s doing. He’s very controlled. Doesn’t look like it, but he’s very controlled,” Hunter said with a smile. “Dominique, man, he’s grown up so much. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s a good guy on and off the field. I’m very proud of all the success he’s had. If he keeps working hard, he’s going to [get] there.”
Hunter noted that Easley being able to control his penalties (like jumping offsides often) has been a major improvement but he has also learned how to be an effective leader rather than simply “the biggest trash-talker I’ve ever been around.”
He said, “Being a leader, [Easley has] always been vocal but now he’s saying the right stuff. He’s not just saying stuff; he’s actually saying the right stuff. And that’s always good. He’s really taken a step forward in that. He’s growing.”