- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- He has carried around a Chuckie doll from the campy horror-movie franchise and walked onto Florida Field wearing a giant chain.
He doesn’t watch much sports, preferring SpongeBob and The Fairly Oddparents cartoons instead.
One of his goals this summer has been building a beach body.
There is nothing typical about Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley off the field. But it’s his uniqueness on the field that separates him from most of the other defensive linemen in the country.
The 6-foot-2, 285-pound senior is exceptionally quick and strong, and now he’s got the desire and commitment to match it. That’s a combination that could make the 2013 season -- and his future -- very special.
"He’s got probably as good initial quickness for an inside player that I’ve ever been around," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "He’s a very disruptive guy. He’s a guy you’ve got to account for. He’s a guy that plays with great effort, plays with great intensity and toughness, and he exemplifies what you want on the field."
This season has the potential to produce a big payoff for Easley, who hopes to do what his friend and former teammate Sharrif Floyd did last season: Play at a high level and work his way into the first round of the NFL draft. It’s one of the reasons he decided to return for his senior season instead of leaving early like Floyd.
When Easley’s paperwork came back from the NFL in December 2012, he was projected as a third- or fourth-round pick. It was tempting to leave, but he wanted to be drafted higher. His mother wanted something else: a diploma.
"She had asked me to come back and finish school, so I tried to come back and get as close as possible to finishing school," said Easley, who added that he’s on track to graduate in the spring. "She wants to see me walk across the stage. That’s her biggest thing. That’s what she keeps bugging me about, so you know you’ve got to make the mother happy."
It’s a good move football-wise, too, because it’ll allow Easley to prove he can be as dominant a player as Floyd, who was taken with the No. 23 pick by Minnesota. Easley isn’t as big as Floyd, who was 20 pounds heavier, but he’s quicker and deceptively strong.
"He has a great get-off,"right guard Jon Halapio said. "He’s a very explosive guy and he’s very strong, too. He’s very aggressive, very intense and all those things, but I feel like it’s his first step and how explosive he is that really gets guys.
"He doesn’t look like he’s strong. He doesn’t look like he’s heavy. But once he explodes into you, once he gets his hands on you, he’s a very strong guy. He’s very football strong when the pads are on."
Easley has played tackle and end during his career and racked up 67 tackles (16.0 for loss) and 5.5 sacks. UF has plenty of outside players now, so he’ll spend nearly all of his time inside, which is where he’ll play in the NFL.
He says he’s completely healthy and has no lingering effects from the knee injuries that bothered him the past two seasons. More importantly, his head is right now, which he says will make him a more consistent player.
"It was sort of a mental thing," Easley said. "I wasn’t so confident in myself [the last two seasons] because of my injuries. I think it’s going to be much better."
Easley says he’s more excited for this season than any he has played because he’s healthy, in great shape and playing his more natural position. That should result in a career year, he said.
"Got to give it everything," he said. "Can’t have no regrets."