Easley's versatility on display at UF
Published: Monday, August 6, 2012 at 9:51 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 6, 2012 at 11:51 a.m.
Florida coach Will Muschamp said junior Dominique Easley is going to play more at defensive end this season.
That suits the 286-pound Easley just fine.
“It's going to be fun,” Easley said. “More space, more one-on-one matchups.”
Easley is 100 percent after sitting out UF's spring game while recovering from a torn ACL. He suffered the injury during UF's regular-season finale against Florida State and sat out the Gator Bowl.
The rehab that followed wasn't easy. Easley said the hardest part was getting his hip and leg strength back.
“There was a couple of tough moments, but the tough moments are the best moments to remember,” Easley said.
Easley started all 12 games at defensive tackle for the Gators last season before going down with the torn ACL in the second quarter of the FSU game. He heard a pop in his left knee, but his first thought was to get back on the field.
The 21-7 loss to the rival Seminoles left an equally bad taste in Easley's mouth.
“For me, I have a broken heart,” Easley said. “I haven't been the same since 2011. So until those pieces get fixed, it's going to be what it is.”
Muschamp said defensive end is Easley's “most natural” position. But Easley started at defensive tackle to start last season because of the uncertainty that surrounded defensive lineman teammate Sharrif Floyd. Floyd was ineligible the first two games of 2011 after admitting to receiving $2,500 in travel money from a third party for unofficial recruiting visits. Floyd has since made arrangements to pay the money back.
“Because of the issues going into last season, I was a little uncertain we were going to get Sharrif,” Muschamp said. “That's why we did what we did. With a first-year scheme and it was very difficult to switch gears on those guys with their roles going into the season. Sharrif is the more natural inside player, he played very well in the bowl game for us when Dominique was injured.”
Muschamp said Easley will still bounce from defensive end to defensive tackle on occasion.
“In regular downs 1st-and-10, second down, he'll be on the edge,” Muschamp said. “Then in pass rush situations, he and Shariff will be in there (at tackle).”
For Easley, defensive end will be a return to the position he primarily played in high school. Easley has shown flashes of playmaking ability in his college career. In two seasons, Easley has 41 career tackles, including 7.5 for loss. Easley also has recorded 1.5 sacks and blocked a punt.
Easley said he's hopeful UF's defense will fulfill its promise this season. He's been supporting close friend and teammate Ronald Powell, who also is rehabbing from a torn ACL.
“Every day, I just try to keep telling him, make the experience fun, don't make it to where it's an ACL injury,” Easley said. “Just make it to where it's another challenge to get through.”
Easley, Powell and Floyd were all part of the same 2010 recruiting class that has had its share of up-and-down moments. In the two seasons since they joined the team, the Gators are 15-11, which Muschamp called “unacceptable” in his season-opening news conference Thursday.
“Since freshman year we went through a lot with each other,” Easley said. “Emotionally we went downhill with each other which has made us stronger as men and as athletes and as football players. Really, every opportunity that we've been through, we were all there for each other. It was never just, you are going to handle this by yourself. It was always as one.”