Published August 21, 2012 - 4:05pm
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Will Muschamp has said continually that if freshmen are good enough to break into the lineup, he has absolutely no qualms about playing them immediately.
That bodes well for freshman BUCK Dante Fowler (6-3, 277), as Muschamp’s hybrid defensive line-linebacker is a position of need.
While Fowler came in a little heavy to preseason camp, he will shed a few pounds to get to his proper playing weight. And it’s crucial he gets there fast.
2011’s starting BUCK Ronald Powell is out rehabbing with an ACL injury he suffered in the spring game. Senior Lerentee McCray is slated to start the year at the position, but even he has been on and off the DL, even missing the spring with a shoulder injury.
So, Fowler needs to be ready to go game one.
Fowler has been getting plenty of reps in fall camp, behind McCray, and he has been very impressive according to several coaches and players. Florida had an open practice on Saturday, and several have said Fowler was indeed the most impressive defender on the field.
If he can play with an aggression and an edge and get a sense of the defense under his belt, he could be a big-time impact player as a freshman. The position is perfect for his skill set right now. But it is likely he could outgrow the position in the future. We’ll wait and see on that.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn likes the first impression Fowler is leaving in camp with his explosion and power.
“Fowler plays with a lot of power,” he said. “He’s really strong through his lower body. If he can get underneath you, he can knock you back.”
The focus of the Gators’ defense in training camp has been improving the defensive line pass rush and creating more turnovers.
Powell is hoping to return to the team at some point during the season, as his rehab has been progressing rapidly.
But until that time, Fowler will be asked to pick up some slack, in addition to McCray. Once Fowler has an understanding of what Muschamp’s defense is trying to get out of him, things will start to slow down and Fowler will realize it’s the same game he’s always played. But just a little faster.