Ronald Powell was generally regarded as the top prospect in the country despite position in the 2010 class. For Florida, that meant getting a primo athlete that can rush the passer and hit like a Mack truck.
Still, it isn’t like you can just push a button and the all-star ability shines at the next level. Powell can attest to that.
“The biggest surprise was the speed of the game and that is at any level you play,” Powell told the media on Monday after a morning practice. “As you get higher and higher in the level of ball that we play, the game is going to speed up for you.
“Coming in as a freshman, the game is so fast you are really just trying to get the play down. It’s not (just) understanding the play, but why do I have to do certain (things).”
Powell will be the first to tell you he isn’t the most social person to be around, and that is part of his ‘game’ that he has really had to work on. It is something he has taken to heart and made a real effort to change.
“A lot of times, to be honest, I was the type of guy that stayed to myself,” Powell said. “If a guy wanted to talk to me I wouldn’t talk to him… That was just the type of guy I was growing up… Now, it’s like I have to step in and be a leader and still be me. I have to ask how their day is going and really get to know guys.”
The effort has never been an issue for Powell. He has worked his way through tough times and a tough upbringing to be one of the most talked about athletes on a team full of big time athletes and a guy that most have pegged for greatness one day.
“If you didn’t know I came from nothing,” he said. “I worked hard. In high school I played tight end, I played defensive tackle, I played middle linebacker. Staying humble and staying hungry… it all doesn’t matter. As long as you keep working hard and keep your expectations for yourself, all of that doesn’t matter. I am just going to continue to do what I have to do to get better and have high expectations for myself.
He also isn’t worried about the success that everyone has planned for him. Powell knows he will get there as well, if not further.
“I was ready for the expectations,” he said talking about his freshman year. “Because, anybody’s expectations for me, mine were ten times higher than them. I was definitely ready for that. For me, I handled it the way I needed to handle it.”
That drive has him more prepared for his sophomore season. He has a better of understanding of what it takes to succeed and he has sought out the things to make that happen.
“I definitely wanted to really understand what I was doing and why I was doing it,” he said about his approach to his sophomore campaign. “I really started working with my hands and a lot of footwork stuff, because I knew I was going to be asked to do a lot like covering the tight end and backs in the flats and stuff like that.”
Stuff like that comes with the BUCK position. It is something that Gators’ fans and coaches alike hope that Powell can redefine in 2011 for a Gator team that hasn’t had the position before.
The position requires Powell to sometimes play with his hand down and in a three point stance on the line of scrimmage, sometimes play up as a linebacker, and also disguise between the two so defenses can’t see what he is going to do.
“I really think it is a position that I feel like I can play well here and if I am fortunate enough to play on the next level, I can play there too,” he said of the BUCK. “It gives me a lot of freedom to disguise, but I still have a job to do and need to get it done.”
Powell has really taken to the mentorship of defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Dan Quinn as well as assistant defensive line coach Bryant Young. The two bring decades of NFL experience whether as a player or coach and an understanding of the game and the way to teach it.
“Coach Quinn and Coach Young are unbelievable,” Powell said. “It has been a blessing to have them in my life.”
“Coach Quinn has emphasized my hands in spring ball… grabbing grass on my first step coming out, hands placement, and eye-man keys,” he said, all indicative of training at the NFL level. “(He has me) worrying about the man before I worry about the play.”
With Powell’s skill and the training of NFL type coaches, he is looking for a successful season. But, he also hopes to get some help from the inside.
Florida boasts a wicked foursome of defensive tackles in senior Jaye Howard, junior Omar Hunter, and big time sophomores Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd. You can see Powell almost licking his chops at the chance to play next to those guys and what they will in turn allow him to do.
“It takes all four of us and sometimes five us,” Powell said. “To have those guys that are so talented in the two-deep with Jaye Howard, Dominique Easley, Omar Hunter, and Sharrif Floyd. Those guys are going to bring so much to the table where they have to double them and let me loose or double me and let them loose. There will be so many different things we can do with that.”
Working together is part of the maturation process that Powell has learned in his first year. He is now ready to pass that along and eager to do that for team goals.
“If they came to me for advice I would tell them to stay humble and work hard,” Powell said of the next line of Gators behind him. “Continue to listen to the guys around you and the older guys that have been there and done it before. Get into the film and playbook and understand the concepts and try to get around your position coach as much as possible.”
Imagine a team full of Ronald Powell’s running around.