UF's Fowler a 'teddy bear guy'


Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. carries teammate Dominique Easley's Chucky doll during Gator Walk before the start of the Arkansas game Saturday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, October 7, 2013 at 4:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 7, 2013 at 4:20 p.m.

The quarterbacks he's been hitting and harassing all season may find this hard to believe, but Florida defensive end/outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. is actually a big softy off the field.

“He's a big kid,” senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins said. “He's tough on the field, but he's like a little teddy bear off the field. He's funny, he jokes around. I've never seen him mad, either.”

Fowler said that's an accurate description of him.

“I'm just a big, goofy, teddy bear guy,” he said. “I'm just nice to everybody. It's crazy, though, because on the football field, I'll probably say some things and people will be looking at me like, 'What?' And I'm like, 'I'm sorry bro, it's football.'

“I always want to play mad. I feel like it brings the best out of me. You always want to be serious on the football field. The offense is not your friend. I'm not going to let them be my friend and be all buddy and pal with me. I want to break them.”

Fowler said his goofy side off the field comes naturally.

“Look at me, I'm smiling right now,” he said. “I like to play around and stuff. I just turned 19, so I just try to live life. I'm still a kid. I'm not 21 yet. My mom still washes my clothes and things like that.”

UF coach Will Muschamp said Fowler is a good guy to have around.

“Dante has a great personality,” he said. “He's a lot of fun to be around and coach. He's a joy to coach. You can coach Dante hard. Guys of his caliber sometimes are not approachable in that situation. He's a guy that takes coaching. He wants to be coached hard.

“When he makes a mistake, he wants to know what he can do to get better. He's just a very coachable player. That's what makes him a really good player.”

Good vs. good good for Gators

Muschamp said one of the reasons the defense has been so strong in SEC play over the past two seasons is the fact UF's No. 1 defense goes against the No. 1 offense all the time in practice.

“There's no question,” he said. “You need to get scout-team work from the standpoint of getting the looks that maybe our offense can't give us. But we work good-on-good every day.

“I just don't know how you get better (without doing that). Iron sharpens iron. You've got to go against good people in order to do that because in our league, that's what we're going to face every Saturday.”

Driskel still a presence

Muschamp said former starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, who recently underwent surgery on his fractured leg, is still an active member of the team.

“Jeff went to the hotel with the team (for the Arkansas game),” Muschamp said. “He's in the meetings every day. He's doing as well as could be expected.

“We do (want him to travel with the team). We haven't gotten that far ahead. Certainly Tyler (Murphy) and Jeff have a great relationship. Anything that helps Tyler play well, we'll do.”

Muschamp said he's not sure if Driskel will make the trip to Baton Rouge this weekend.

“I don't know that he can travel,” he said. “He still has a pretty large boot on his ankle. As far as a cast is concerned, traveling is kind of hard. But I'll talk to him about it.”

Cameron has Tigers flying

Muschamp coached against new LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in the NFL and has a pretty good idea what to expect from the Tigers.

“The run game is very similar,” Muschamp said. “He and Les (Miles) go back a long way. Obviously, there are a lot of shared ideas in the run game as far as what they do.

“They are very efficient in what they do throwing the football and taking shots down the field, stretching the field vertically. Creating some intermediate throws. Tailoring the offense to fit the quarterback. That's one he's done a nice job of.”

Watkins takes responsibility

Watkins, a senior leader on defense, said he is the one to blame for the 31-yard pass to Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry that set up the Razorbacks' only touchdown Saturday night.

“That play was on me,” he said. “They ran an unbalanced set and kind of hid their tight end on me. I was supposed to have my eyes on the tight end, but they snuck him behind me.

“(Muschamp) just told me that we had gone over that all week. We just have to get to our line quicker. I wasn't on the line. If I had gotten on the line, I would have seen it. So (Muschamp) kind of got on me (after the play).”

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