Gators have a plan to affect quarterback more

By Adam Silverstein
April 25, 2013

When head coach Will Muschamp officially took over the Florida Gators back in 2011, he and then-defensive coordinator Dan Quinn both spoke extensively about “affecting the quarterback,” getting pressure on the opposing signal caller, knocking him to the ground and creating game-changing plays.

Florida has not been able to do much of that in Muschamp’s first two years (or Urban Meyer’s last season in 2010). After dominating opposing quarterbacks in 2009 with 39 sacks, the Gators registered just 21 sacks (-18) in 2010, 28 sacks (-11) in 2011 and 30 sacks (-9) in 2012. Trending back upward, yes, but nowhere near as disruptive as he wants the defense to be on a consistent basis.

Muschamp aims to buck that trend next season by loading up Florida’s starting 11 with as many talented pass rushers as possible.

In a post-spring practice depth chart released on Wednesday, the starting-off point for the Gators in fall practice, Muschamp has sophomore Dante Fowler, Jr. inserted as the starter at BUCK with redshirt junior Ronald Powell, who has been listed at that position the last two seasons, as the starting Sam linebacker.

“We’ll start camp in our three-down look to get our best guys on the field. It’s a lengthy discussion we’ve had as a defensive staff,” he said Wednesday. “Certainly Ronald we feel like is going to be one of those guys.”

Powell’s versatility – as well as that of many of Florida’s defenders – allows Muschamp to make that switch with ease. Not only can Powell play both BUCK and Sam, Fowler can spend time as Buck and defensive end, ensuring that both can be on the field at the same time no matter where they are situated on defense.

“Dante had a really good spring. He’s a guy that really worked hard in the pass rush,” Muschamp said. “I think Brad [Lawing] has done a nice job to develop a solid move and a counter off of that. That’s something he really is continuing to refine through summer. Played the runs well, strong at the point of attack. He’s got good initial quickness. He’s a really good athlete. He can do some things as far as dropping into coverage. He can be effective as far as that’s concerned.”

Pass rushing will not be limited to Powell and Fowler, of course. Senior Dominique Easley is listed as a starting defensive tackle but can easily be moved outside to defensive end (the position he played all of 2012), and sophomore DE Jonathan Bullard – like his classmate Fowler – appears to be primed for a breakout season.

“Jonathan obviously was injured with a hamstring most of spring but played very well for us throughout the season and in the bowl practice,” Muschamp said. “He’s a guy that, when he was healthy in spring, played extremely well, had a great offseason, has changed his body, has gotten a long stronger. A guy that can hold the point, can rush on the edge and also slide inside and do some things.”

Beyond those four players, Muschamp likes what he has seen from redshirt junior Neiron Ball, who is listed as a back-up Sam linebacker behind Powell but can also play BUCK. He is also pleased with the continued improvement of senior Darrin Kitchens, the first-string Will linebacker heading into the fall.

“Darrin Kitchens’s development as an inside linebacker enables that move [to Will] to happen. He played extremely well throughout the spring for us. He’s a guy, going into his senior year, has played some good football for us,” Muschamp said.

The Gators lost seven of their 2012 defensive starters including both defensive tackles, all three linebackers and both safeties, but Florida’s talent and depth at pass rushing positions has the defense primed to be more disruptive than it has been since 2009.


  1. sjkoepp says:

    Having fowler, Bullard, Easley AND powell all on the field is a terrifying prospect for quarterbacks. I feel like 2013 we will be much better in the passing defense but with losing floyd/whole interior defense the run defense won’t be as good.

  2. WJP11 says:

    I just hope all these guys make it thru the fall. And someone steps up at Saftey. Go Gators

  3. Michael Jones says:

    Love the idea of Easley, Powell, Fowler, and Bullard all on the field at the same time. Love the way Muschamp’s mind works.

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