Editor’s note: Each day between now and Florida’s Allstate Sugar Bowl date with Louisville, GatorNation will review the season for a key Gators player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at DE Dominique Easley.
21 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 2 QB hurries, one fumble recovery
Role in 2012: Easley spent his first two seasons at Florida at defensive tackle, but he was moved outside this season. It was designed to boost the pass rush, and Easley’s sacks went up.
The good: Easley is a natural defensive end and the move outside helped him nearly triple his sacks from 2011 (1.5). He came back from a torn left ACL suffered in November 2011 to start all 10 games in which he played. His biggest asset is his quickness and his first step, but he’s got decent power to go along with that, too. He’s also got an added dose of nastiness, and the team feeds off his energy.
The bad: Easley has the potential to be a dominant pass-rushing defensive end, but there were games where he was no factor. The consistency wasn’t there. A big reason is the ACL injury. It usually takes more than one season for a player to be completely back, especially at a position like end that puts a lot of pressure on the knees. He had a problem with his right knee this season, missing two games because of swelling.
Crystal ball: Though he’s a bit undersized at 6-foot-2, Easley is an intriguing NFL prospect because of his speed and quickness. Defensive end is a premium position, so his value is pretty high, which means Easley has to decide if he wants to leave for the NFL a year early or return for his senior season. He’s likely no worse than a fourth-round pick right now. Easley’s draft stock would likely be higher next season another year away from the ACL injury, but he recently had a son, so that could be a big factor in the decision.