After two games of hearing his head coach and defensive coordinator call him out for a lack of production in the pass rush, Ronald Powell finally got the message.
Heading into Saturday’s game against a prolific Tennessee passing attack, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn sat down with the heralded sophomore and gave him some advice.
“Coach Quinn, we sat down and he showed a lot of examples on how he wanted my ball to be,” Powell said. “I just took it from there and just played the way I could be.”
Powell said he started thinking less against Tennessee, and the results were obvious as he put together his best game of the season, effectively getting into the backfield and disrupting several plays.
He indirectly forced two interceptions on the afternoon by forcing Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray to move around in the pocket.
On the first play of the second half, Powell shot around the left side and avoided a blocking back to flush Bray to his right and make him throw off his back foot, allowing safety Josh Evans to pick off the pass. Later in the second half, Powell got free off the right edge and forced Bray to step up in the pocket, overthrowing his receiver downfield for a game-sealing interception by safety Matt Elam.
“It was just I knew I had to do more and it was something I felt already myself,” Powell said. “Just the position that I play, they just wanted to see more coming from that position. Playing faster, playing more physical and stuff like that, setting the edges and stuff like that.”
The return of sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd also seemed to have a direct impact on Powell’s game.
With Floyd lining up at the other end spot, Powell was the focus of less double-teams against the Volunteers, and he took full advantage as he recorded two tackles, two hurries, a half sack and a half tackle for a loss.
“It’s always good to have my boy back,” Powell said. “We all real close and we was missing him.”
But perhaps the biggest thing that was slowing the potential star down wasn’t having Floyd out, he said.
“Just thinking, doing a lot of things, thinking before I react to things and stuff like that,” Powell said. “It’s not too many things. It was just taking it from the classroom to the field and just going without thinking.”
His work with Quinn in the week leading up to the Tennessee game helped him improve, and that’s something the sophomore will try to duplicate moving forward.
“I had a good week of preparation and a good week of practice, a lot of film and stuff like that,” he said.
Muschamp also noticed Powell playing faster and placed the blame on the coaching staff for not helping him play that way sooner.
“He played well, played his best game of the first three,” Muschamp said. “I think more than anything he played fast, he played physical and that’s what we need out of him. He certainly had it in him – we just needed to do a better job of coaching.”
While his stats against Tennessee were certainly nothing to gawk at, Saturday’s performance was a good start from a guy Florida is counting on to be a big contributor on the defensive line.
Powell said he’s just going to try to get better one game and one play at a time.
“I just take it every down. I take it from every down and just go from there,” he said. “There’s more to come.”