Tuesday, December 20, 2011 Updated: December 21, 12:06 PM ET
Floyd back in natural position
By Michael DiRocco GatorNation
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida defensive end Sharrif Floyd feels like he's going home.
Not to Philadelphia. This trip is much shorter -- about five feet.
Floyd will line up at defensive tackle in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl to replace Dominique Easley, who suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the regular-season finale against Florida State. Floyd played tackle in high school and as a freshman last season but was moved to end this season because the Gators were short there.
It's going to be a happy homecoming, for sure.
Sophomore Sharrif Floyd played most of the 2011 season at defensive end but feels much more comfortable in the middle.
"I don't like the way it happened or the reason I've moved back in, but it happens in the game of football, and I can't be more excited," Floyd said. "Since I've been playing, eight or nine years now, I've been at D-tackle. I know it. I know all the blocks, I know what's coming after me. It's not thinking, it's just going, so I think I understand it a little bit more."
Defensive tackle is really where Floyd belongs. He's a bit too big to play end (6-foot-3, 295 pounds) and he's not fast enough to beat offensive tackles on the edge. But he is athletic, quick and strong and very good at playing the run. He showed that against FSU, when he moved back inside after Easley was injured in the second quarter. Floyd had six tackles against the Seminoles, two shy of his season high of eight (Georgia).
"He is a more natural inside player," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "We moved Sharrif inside in the FSU game, and he played extremely well."
Floyd finished the regular season with 44 tackles, including five for loss, despite feeling uncomfortable and frustrated all season at end. The discomfort was because of learning a new position. The frustration was because he wasn't able to make more plays. He didn't have a sack, although he did have four quarterback hurries.
"As I started to progress at D-end and started noticing more teams just not coming my way, it was frustrating," Floyd said. "But at the end of the day, it was make a play, whatever way, however it happens. It was frustrating at the beginning, and I started talking to my coaches about it. They were like, 'Just hang in there and work with us.' So I did what was best for the team."
He would rather be in the middle, though, because he thrives on being part of the action on every play.
"A whole lot more fun [to play tackle]," Floyd said. "[Opponents] can't run away. Basically you've got to deal with it. You can't say, 'Alright, he's in the middle, run away from him.' You can't. He's either here or there."
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Moving Floyd back inside, though, leaves the Gators short at end. Ronald Powell, who came on toward the end of the season and led the team with 5.0 sacks, starts at the buck position (hybrid end/linebacker). The other end likely will be William Green (19 tackles). He started the first two games of the season in place of Floyd, who had to sit out because of an NCAA suspension for violating rules regarding preferential treatment for athletes.
If several players -- including Green, Kedric Johnson, Earl Okine and Tevin Westbrook -- don't improve enough to compete for a starting job, Floyd might find himself back outside again in 2012. He's convinced, though, that won't happen.
"I think [tackle] definitely is my position now until I'm done," Floyd said.
Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.