Over the next seven days, Gator Country will preview the players that make up the 2013 Florida Gators football team as we inch closer and closer to the season.
Each day we will count down using the player whose jersey number corresponds with how many days there are left until Florida kicks off against Toledo in the Swamp on August 31.
Today we take a look at redshirt junior linebacker Ronald Powell.
Powell came to Florida as the top-rated player in the country in the class of 2010 from Rancho Verde High School in California. He chose Florida over schools like Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Cal, Miami, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee, UCLA and Southern Cal.
Powell played in all 13 games as a freshman on his way to being named to the Freshmen All-SEC Team. Powell’s sophomore year got off to a sluggish start but he still led the team with six sacks and started 12 games – missing one with an injury.
Powell really started to hit his stride towards the end of his sophomore season. He carried that momentum into the spring and by all accounts was rounding into the 5-star player he was listed as coming out of high school. Then he tore his ACL in the Orange and Blue Debut. Powell was given an optimistic return time of November but re-tore the ACL while rehabbing to get back on the field.
Just like that, his junior season was over before it even really began.
Powell returned to the field this spring and is playing fast and physical. The coaching staff has had to try to temper what Powell is doing in practice because as Will Muschamp has said, they need him at 100% on August 31, not in the middle of fall camp.
Powell has a great combination of size, speed and athleticism. As a rusher, Powell uses his speed to his advantage. He has a great first move and plays with leverage and has really learned how to use his hands effectively against offensive linemen. He came to Florida with a great spin move but has developed other pass rushing techniques and can attack offensive tackles in a number of ways.
As a tackler, Powell takes good angles in pursuit and is a solid wrap-up tackler who drives through the ball carrier. He has a relentless motor. Powell is good in coverage, better in zone than man coverage and excels in covering underneath routes.
Durability has to be a question with Powell. He has two ACL surgeries in less than a year and we still don’t know how he will handle cutting and getting his nose dirty against other teams this season. He’s been going full speed in practice but it’s a whole different ball game when you’re playing on Saturday.
Powell has slimmed down some since we last saw him in a game. If he is asked to play with his hand in the ground, is he big enough and strong enough to be effective vs. the run?
What to Expect
Barring an injury, Powell will play and start in every game this season. He’s one of the best 11 players on defense and Will Muschamp has made it very clear that he is going to play the best 11.
Powell will play a lot of Sam linebacker this season but in nickel and dime situations, he could move down to BUCK and play with his hand on the ground. Look for Powell to also spell Dante Fowler Jr. at BUCK.
Powell appears to be ready to put the two ACL injuries behind him and is set to have a bounce back season for the Gators.