Redshirt junior linebacker Ronald Powell did not get to celebrate the Florida Gators‘ dominant – though the score indicates a close game – 14-6 victory over the LSU Tigers in 2012. The last taste of Tiger this Gator has in his mouth is a sour one in the form of a 41-11 whooping handed to UF two seasons ago.
Powell was unable to finish that contest and explained Tuesday how he has been seething for an opportunity to run with Florida as it tries to earn a measure of revenge for that embarrassing 2011 defeat.
“I had been getting like really, really bad stingers going into that game, and I ended up getting one during that game. So I ended up not playing the rest of the game,” he explained. “Not being able to help my team and not being able to go out there and perform, it still bothers me today. Getting a chance to go back there and perform with the guys I’ve got now, it’s going to be special for me.”
Powell has performed well while still finding his way back into form during his first five games this season. He’s amassed four tackles for loss (third-most on the team) and two sacks (second-most) but blown by his fellow defenders with a team-high seven quarterback hurries, at least two of which directly resulted in interceptions.
He is one major reason why the Gators boast the best defense in the SEC and arguably the best in the nation, too.
Powell thinks this is a vastly different Florida team than the group that traveled to Baton Rouge as a young, immature, inexperienced and injured bunch in 2011. And he gives a lot of that credit to head coach Will Muschamp.
“I think we got a lot more people that’s bought in to what Coach Champ wants to do,” he said. “We got a great coaching staff and everybody is out there having fun and flying around and being psychical.
“That’s what Coach Champ’s identity is. He likes tough dudes; he likes people that’s going to be physical and hit people in the mouth. I feel like we got a defense that wants to go out and do that along with a front O-line that wants to do the same thing.”
The one sour note for Powell heading into Saturday’s game is the fact that senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley, his classmate and close friend for four seasons, will not be by his side and along for the ride.
“Man, it hurt me a lot because of the fact that I just had one [injury] the year before and I was sitting at home and I was missing those times jumping in the stands with Matt Elam and Sharrif [Floyd] and Easley and those close dudes to me. And just the team period in general, jumping up and chest bumping and stuff like that. I was at home on the couch watching that stuff and I wanted to be a part of it,” he said.
“Now Elo and Reef are gone, [Easley] was one of the dudes that I had [left]. For him to be taken away from our program devastated our program a whole lot. It definitely touched me in a different way, too, especially going out on an ACL.”
Powell said he has been doing his part to be a shoulder for Easley to lean on, reciprocating the role Easley played in his recovery from April 2012 until just a few months ago when he stepped back on the field for the first time in more than a year.
“It gives us a chance to open up and stuff like that, so I think that’s been a good thing for him and stuff like that,” he said. “And then just the [other] people around him. We had Sharrif down last weekend. Just getting those type of people around him, just the good people that we have around our program, it will definitely lift you up to stay positive and stuff like that.”
Easley will not be in Baton Rouge to energize the team, motivate the defense or support his friend, but Powell will be on the field Saturday with plenty of motivation to go out and continue performing at a high level for Florida.