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Linebacker Antwaun Powell progressing as a vocal leader on Florida Gators' defense

Graham Hall
Gator Sports
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Florida outside linebacker Antwaun Powell is one of several players poised to progress to the next level in 2022.

Powell appeared in all but one game in 2021, his redshirt freshman season with the program, and he would finish the season with five tackles — consistent action yet not the role that most in Powell’s position dream of. 

But with a new coaching staff in Gainesville, and several voids along the defensive line, Powell has an opportunity to become a vital component of Florida’s pass-rush. 

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Antwaun Powell finding his voice

Florida Gators outside linebacker Antwaun Powell (52) runs a drill during spring practice at the University of Florida in Gainesville, on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

If Powell wants to help lead, he can’t just walk the walk. He has to talk as if he’s a leader, which means becoming a vocal presence around the program. 

It’s a message Powell’s position coach, Mike Peterson, has been preaching since returning to his alma mater.

“The guy’s explosive man, he's powerful. He's explosive, and he's a great kid, real quiet. I'm trying to get him to be a little more vocal,” Peterson said. “I kind of jumped on him a little bit today out there, so it was good for him.”

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Powell already has found himself using his voice more as he vies for a leadership role in a Florida defense that’s yearning for improvement in Billy Napier’s inaugural season with the program.

“He told me he wants me to be more vocal. I would say I’m using my voice a lot more,” Powell said. “When calling out the plays and stuff, we use hand signals. I try to make noise and let the defense know what’s going on, how to play it.”

Linebackers, whether they’re playing inside or on the edge, often are required to say what they’re seeing, both pre-snap and after the offense gets set. A defense without a knowledgeable and expressive linebacker corps is typically a less productive one. 

Midway through spring camp, Powell credits the newly hired coaching staff with giving him the confidence to more easily call out information. The flow of information from coach to player has been easier to digest — a sign Patrick Toney’s defensive scheme may already be easier for the Gators to comprehend. 

“I feel like they made it easier to do our job,” Powell said of Florida’s coaching staff. “I feel like this defense can be really scary. With the players that we have, and the playbook that coach PT (Patrick Toney) got, I feel like we’ve got something going on.”

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Brenton Cox sees talent in his teammate

Outside linebackers Brenton Cox Jr. (1) and Antwaun Powell (52) run a drill during at the practice facility at the University of Florida in Gainesville, on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Powell’s teammates have taken notice of the Portsmouth, Virginia, native's potential.  

UF standout Brenton Cox, a five-star prospect coming out of high school, pointed to Powell’s agility as a pass-rusher. He said Powell is one of several Gators whose athleticism has turned heads in spring camp. 

He may still be in the development process, but it’s clear Powell is being set up to be a leader in the not-so-distant future in Florida’s defense. 

“These guys are a lot more freakier than I was when I was their age. They're stronger, faster, bendier. I'm still learning from them guys every day,” Cox said. “I'm trying to be as elusive as Antwaun Powell and still trying to be as athletic as (Diwun) Black, so I'm just learning from these guys, and I'm sure they're learning from me, too."

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