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September 3, 2010Florida redshirt junior defensive lineman Jaye Howard has put on more than 70 lbs while at Florida - and he says he's still fast.
"I can use my speed against the guards. I'm much quicker than the guards," Howard said when asked why he likes playing inside. "I played basketball in high school. My lateral movement is good."
Howard has not always been fit to play the tackle position. He acknowledged he arrived at UF somewhere in the range of 225-230 lbs.
A salad bar enthusiast, Howard was not putting on the weight necessary for the coaches to move into the inside of the defensive line.
Strength coach Mickey Marotti had a different diet in mind for Howard - the notorious breakfast club.
Football players may be known for a hearty appetite, but Marotti's club targets the players that need to be "forced" to eat. Percy Harvin and Chris Rainey belonged to the club so they could withstand big hits from SEC defenders. Howard was a member for two years so that he could deliver those kinds of hits.
"They watch you eat - you have to eat," Howard said. One might expect a defensive lineman to enjoy the encouragement to "eat like a pig," but Howard claims he wasn't used to eating that much.
"For me it was basically like a pancake diet," Howard said.
A fitting diet for a defensive lineman who coaches want to see get the upper hand in the trenches instead of lying flat on his back.
Howard has graduated from the club and maintains his weight. His combination of size and agility makes him a versatile option on the 2010 defensive line.
"Certain packages they have me playing outside, so I get a taste of (defensive) end a little bit," Howard said.
Howard lining up at end suggests the much discussed 3-4 formation may be implemented this season. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin gives the impression he would rather spend a day at the DMV than answer questions about the 3-4, but players and coaches alike talk about a retooled defense.
"I view anybody that's on that defensive field for us (able) to make plays," Austin said.
For Howard, it's a welcome change from the defensive role of simply "holding blocks" to open up the field for linebackers to step in and make the play.
"We had a freak back there in Brandon Spikes, and we just opened it up for him and let him do his thing," Howard said.
This time, Howard is expected to get off his block and be the one making plays.
If he's quick enough to get in the backfield, Howard could carry the weight of the defensive line.