Howard a Big Factor on the Gator D-Line

Jaye Howard

If you were to poll Florida players and coaches and ask them which defensive lineman will have a big year for the Gators, I suspect most votes would go to Jaye Howard. The fourth year junior from Orlando (FL) Jones entered UF as an undersized defensive end, but has grown into a 6-3, 310-pound force at the "3" technique in the Gator defensive front.

Jaye Howard has had a steady progression in his career, from a redshirt season in 2007 to limited play in '08 to earning four starts and registering 29 tackles as a sophomore last season. He probably had his best game in the SEC Championship Game when he stood out on a defense that had its worst day. Howard was credited with 10 tackles against Alabama.

Howard is teaming up with Omar Hunter on the first team, giving Florida as solid a pair of tackles as you'll find anywhere. Those two are kind of the middle guys on the line at DT with three seniors and three freshmen also part of the mix. Two of those freshmen, Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd officially became Gators when coach Urban Meyer removed the black stripe from their helmets after practice Monday morning.

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On how camp's going so far:

"It's going pretty good. The defense is still trying to jell together as a defense and get used to Coach Austin's coaching style, but it's pretty good."

On the competition at DT:

"If you miss one practice your job's up for grabs so you got to keep pushing through it."

On reaching the size he's reached:

"I'm handling it pretty good. It's the heaviest I've been since I've been here but I'm able to run with it. I'm comfortable with it."

On the freshmen tackles earning the stripe removal:

"They're pretty good. They're way better than I was when I arrived here. They're fundamentally sounds right now. They just have to work a little more on techniques using their hands, but they're pretty good."

On playing alongside Omar Hunter:

"Omar and I have a great bond together. We just push each other and feed off each other. Sometimes if I don't make it to lineup at the three technique he'll just go to three technique and I'll go to nose. We're good like that. We know where each other is supposed to be."

On being urged to provide inside pass rush:

"Actually we were challenged last night (Sunday) by Brad Culpepper. He said the inside has to step up this year and we're going to try to do that."

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Culpepper was, of course a tremendous defensive tackle for the Gators who earned all-American honors in 1991. He still holds the single season (21.5) and career (47.5) records for tackles for loss by an interior lineman. With the departures of Jermaine Cunningham (7) and Carlos Dunlap (9) Florida lost 16 QB sacks so an improved inside rush is critical for the 2010 Gator defense.

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