After struggling to live up to the hype in 2013 and enduring the Florida Gators‘ fall from grace, Dante Fowler Jr. is ready to lead the Gator defense back to the ranks of the elite.
Poised to take the SEC by storm in 2013, Fowler watched as his defense was shredded by injuries and forced into terrible situations by an anemic offense. Although Florida performed well statistically on defense most of the season, they were not able to stop teams at crunch time. Much of this can be attributed to the disappearance of a pass rush, which is where Fowler comes in.
Fowler needed the interior linemen to clog the middle so he could get to the quarterback and force the issue. After standout tackle Dominique Easley was lost for the season, it seemed that the Gators’ push on the interior was history. As such, Fowler only tallied 3.5 sacks for the season, a far cry from the double-digit numbers that were expected. Add that to only seven quarterback hurries and one pass break-up and one could paint last season’s performance as less than stellar.
Fowler has the talent to be a first-round NFL draft pick, and this season, barring more injuries, looks to be his breakout year. If at least one interior lineman can deflect attention from Fowler, opposing quarterbacks will need their heads on a swivel. Fowler has ideal size (6-foot-3, 261 pounds) and speed to create havoc from the Buck position in Florida’s aggressive defense. The Gators must have Fowler’s pass rushing skills to be competitive, as the offense will be on its third coordinator in three years.
A flicker of greatness has been seen out of Fowler in his first two seasons. His third looks to be a white-hot flame that the Gators can rally around and improve on last season’s disappointment.