There isn't much huffing and puffing on Florida's defensive line this year.
Gators linemen spent much of 2007 without facing any real threat of someone taking their spots. Even if they weren't playing their best, they likely would stay in the game because of a lack of depth.
Not anymore. Now, as UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong puts it,
"they know if they don't go hard, they're going to come out."
"We had a bunch of guys last year who just weren't ready," Strong said as the fifth-ranked Gators (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) prepared for Saturday's home game against Kentucky (5-2, 1-2).
"We substitute a lot of guys just to keep them fresh. Where the game goes, we know that we can always get a fresh body in the game."
"If you go hard, you get to stay in the game."
The Gators have played eight linemen in at least five of their six games this season.
One of the biggest boosts - physically and emotionally - has come from redshirt sophomore Brandon Antwine, who returned Oct. 11 in a 51-21 home victory over LSU. Midway through last season, Antwine was diagnosed with muscle deterioration in his back and even was in a wheelchair for awhile.
Gators coach Urban Meyer hasn't called Antwine's recovery a miracle, but he did admit that UF trainers are surprised by it.
"That's a heck of a deal," Meyer said.
"A lot of people thought he wouldn't play at all this year."
"It shows you what kind of kid he is. It's a great story."
Freshman Matt Patchan, on the other hand, was almost certain to play since he arrived at UF in the spring. What wasn't certain was if he would play on defense. Patchan, also an offensive lineman, has said he wanted to come to a school where he could play offense and defense.
For now, Patchan definitely is making an impact on defense with four tackles and one sack. Sophomore Torrey Davis is starting to make a push, too, as he apparently has resolved the academic issues that plagued him in the spring and summer.