UF's Fowler searches for consistency

Defensive lineman Dante Fowler, Jr. (6) and receiver Quinton Dunbar walk off the field after the second half of the Orange and Blue Debut at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, April 12, 2014 in Gainesville, Fla. The game ended in a 23-23 tie.

Matt Stamey / Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 2:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 2:36 p.m.

Following the 2013 season, Florida’s football coaches challenged defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. to raise his game as a junior and be more consistent.

Last year Fowler was named to the All-SEC second team and had five or more tackles in five games.

He also, however, had five outings with three tackles or less.

“It’s my job to always have a good game,” Fowler said. “Just consistency, being consistent the whole game, not being hot one game and then cold one game. I just want to be consistent every time, be on my game every time. I don’t want to play bad ball, so I’m working on my craft.”

Mission accomplished.

As a testament to his improvement this spring, the UF staff gave Fowler the day off for the Orange & Blue Debut last Saturday.

“The biggest difference with Dante is his consistency,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “We can all look at last year and say there were games where he played really, really well, was almost a dominant player ... and there were games where that wasn’t there.

“That was our challenge to him going into spring ball and going into next season. He’s really done that in the spring. He’s playing really determined. He understands. He sees it the same way. He took that challenge the right way. He’s been great all spring. He’s stepped up as a leader as well. He’s leading by example.”

That example is affecting the entire defense, according to defensive tackle Darious Cummings.

“It’s kind of started to become freakish. He’s a hell of an athlete,” Cummings said of Fowler. “If he’s on and everybody else is on, too, it’s kind of like the defensive line is hard to stop. And that will help everybody else out, the linebackers and secondary.”

In 2013, Fowler led the Gators with 10.5 tackles for loss and finished second on the team with 3.5 sacks. He also increased his total number of tackles from 30 his freshman year to 50 last season.

UF coach Will Muschamp feels Fowler is on track for an even better junior campaign.

“Dante Fowler continues to play extremely well, hard, tough,” he said. “He’s practicing with a purpose. He goes out there every day and really competes. I think we have a special rusher in Dante.”

The 6-foot-3, 277-pounder isn’t fazed by his coaches and teammates counting on him to step up in 2014.

“There’s no pressure,” Fowler said. “I just have to provide better pass rush, and getting to the quarterback is my job. That’s what I’m going to do.”

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