Florida Gators defensive front full of energy in opening win against Florida Atlantic

GAINESVILLE — Dominique Easley made Ben Hill Griffin Stadium his own ballroom Saturday, one that relies heavily on hip-hop and welcomes 280-pound performers.

And Easley took it to another level against Florida Atlantic.

He danced on the sideline. He danced on the field. He danced before the game. He danced at every chance.

"Easley (stinks) at dancing; (stinks) at dancing," fellow defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. "But you know what? He keeps us going when he does that. He brings a lot of juice to this team, and I love that."

The Gators' front seven had more than enough juice in Saturday's 41-3 win. FAU squeaked out 30 yards rushing and didn't move the chains until 3:30 left in the first half.

Owls quarterback Graham Wilbert was sacked only twice, but he felt plenty of pressure. Meanwhile, running back Alfred Morris gained 16 yards on 14 carries.

"Their kids were coming off the ball and exploding into our offensive line," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said.

Much has been made in the offseason about the fluid formations of coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. UF's front would shift from 4-3 to 3-4 throughout games, Muschamp said in his introductory news conference in December.

So far, so good.

Last season, UF's play at the line of scrimmage was a weak link on a unit that performed well overall. The defense was ranked ninth nationally, but the group allowed 130.62 yards per game — 31st in the nation.

Muschamp thought the pass rush was subpar Saturday, though the Owls kept seven players in pass protection. But the energy of the defensive line was palpable.

Sophomore Ronald Powell, who had one sack, was jawing and even feigning punches with offensive linemen. After one incident, a referee warned him to stop. He did it again; the referee penalized him for unsportsmanlike conduct.

And Easley? He was perhaps the only player more hyped. At one point in the first half, he lifted a pass-blocking Morris above him like a pro wrestler.

"He's a monster," Hunter said.

And a good defensive tackle. And a dancer, though not a skilled one.

Florida Gators defensive front full of energy in opening win against Florida Atlantic 09/04/11 [Last modified: Sunday, September 4, 2011 1:21am]

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