A Look Ahead: The Defensive Line

The Florida Gators had arguably one of the more feared defensive lines in college football in 2012. That line looks to be a whole lot different in 2013. Graduation and NFL attrition will take its toll on the defensive front, but the Gators will have some answers. Here is a look at what to expect and what the Gators need when the clock strikes 12 on the Sugar Bowl game on Jan 2.

The odds are favorable that Florida loses all four starters from the defensive line. Nose tackle Omar Hunter and BUCK Lerentee McCray are both seniors and will graduate to move on while the real possibility of losing juniors Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd seems more imminent with each passing day. Throw in the loss of senior Earl Okine who played some significant minutes in 2012 and there is a lot to make up for next season.

The crew was one of the best in the SEC this year allowing the Gators to finish second in the conference in rushing defense and first in the conference in pass efficiency defense. Floyd led the team in tackles for loss with 11, while Easley led the team in sacks with 4. Hunter and Floyd finished in the top six on the team in tackles.

With all of these probable losses, things aren't totally in despair, Florida has made it a point to play some younger guys in 2012, especially in the trenches, and that experience and knowing that there is some quality players ready to step up in a few spots, should help ease the loss of so much up front.

Here is a look at each position for next year and we will add Floyd and Easley to the mix on the list but again note that they are likely gone.

Defensive Tackle: Sharrif Floyd (6-3, 303, SR) (likely gone), Damien Jacobs (6-3, 284, SR), Quinteze Williams (6-5, 276, R-FR).

With Floyd likely gone, that leaves Jacobs as the likely starter at DT. While he seemed to be on the field a great deal and supposedly played pretty well, Jacobs was not very productive during his time on the field. He will need to step things up a great deal in 2013. Williams will almost have to be moved here by default and due to lack of numbers. Hopefully he is pushing about 290 pounds by the time the 2013 season starts.

Jacobs will have to step up his game.

Committed: Darious Cummings (6-2, 305, JR) of East Mississippi JC; Joey Ivie (6-4, 270, FR) of Dade City (Pasco).

Cummings will be signed to play right away. He may actually get the starting job, but that remains to be seen. Either way there is little doubt he is in the two-deep the day he walks on campus. Ivie will likely need some work in the weight room, but he has some time to put on muscle and bulk and with lack of numbers may have to see the field as a freshman.

One very positive is that both Cummings and Ivie are expected to enroll early at Florida and this should help them a great deal and mean they have a greater chance of playing even more in their first year.

Needs: One more would be nice. Dan Quinn and company like them with some height to them, so look for a rangy DT type to show up in the class if they can get one.

Possibilities: Jaynard Bostwick (6-4, 275) of Port St. Lucie

Bostwick is tops on the list and may be the only viable candidate on the list right now. Florida stands a really good chance of landing this one and can certainly show the need for it.

Nose Tackle: Leon Orr (6-5, 305, JR)

Finding true nose tackles on this squad is about impossible. Orr backed up Hunter this year and got much better as the season pressed on. He is the likely starter, but not really a guy you want to play 50 downs for you on Saturdays. He will need some help.

Orr showed promise coming down the stretch of the 2012 season.

Committed: Caleb Brantley (6-4, 310, FR)

Brantley is more of defensive tackle type, but with his size he can get on the field very fast as a nose. He has tremendous quicks and strength and that will help him as he learns as a freshman.

Needs: Two more would be nice. Going in with only two and one that doesn't belong at the position is scary to say the least.

Possibilities: Jarran Reed (6-4, 305, JR) of East Mississippi JC.

Reed is teammates with Cummings and so he is certainly a viable option for the Gators. He will be visiting Florida soon and if things go right I can see this one happening. If the Gators lose all the linemen above, they really need to bring in another guy like this who can put on weight as well with his frame.

BUCK: Ronald Powell (6-4, 245, JR), Dante Fowler (6-3, 277, SO), Alex McCalister (6-6, 230, R-FR), Bryan Cox (6-3, 235, R-FR)

Depending on the health of Powell who re-tore his ACL injury from last spring, this could very well be a team strength. Getting him back to even close to full speed could allow them to do a lot of things with other guys. Either way, I think Powell will have to more of a three point stance guy and less of the linebacker type because of the injury. Fowler was a beast as a freshman and with the experience he gathered on the field this year he is much more advanced than the typical freshman heading into his sophomore season.

Fowler was an impressive freshman.

McCalister has added 35 pounds since his arrival on campus in june and needs about another 20 to be effective at the position. they love his athleticism. Cox is a guy that could move around as he has a wider frame but could still play some linebacker as well.

Commitments: Jordan Sherit (6-3, 245, FR) of Tampa (Hillsborough)

He is really athletic and super intense. Sherit is also coming off of an injury this year. Still, he is probably the top rated BUCK player in Florida according to the Florida staff.

Needs: There are questions here like the health of Powell and whether Cox is going to stay or be at the position so I believe they would like to get one more.

Possibilities: Elijah Daniel (6-3, 252, FR) of Avon Indiana; Ebenezer Ogundeko (6-3, 240) of Brooklyn, NY.

Daniel is a five-star talent but they haven't been able to get him on campus yet. Ogundeko has visited twice and is the more likely scenario at this point.

Defensive End: Jonathan Bullard (6-3, 271, SO). Kedric Johnson (6-4, 237, SR).

Bullard may have been the most impressive freshman on the field for the Gators in 2012 and that says a lot. He led the team in quarterbac khurries and was in the top four in tackles for loss. He is a load on the edge and will improve dramatically before next season. Johnson is a bit of an unknown right now but was showing promise before a preseason injury.

Bullard can be an All-American in year two.

Committed: Antonio Riles (6-4, 265) of lawrenceville (GA)

Riles is a big boy and has some ability. Is he ready to play right away? we shall see.

Needs: At first glance this position looks perilously thin and we aren't even sure if / when Johnson will return from injury. But, a lot can happen if Powell comes back healthy. He or Fowler can move over in situations to provide depth or even start at DE instead of BUCK. Still, getting at least one more in the class is almost a necessity.

Possibilities: Jason Hatcher (6-3, 230, FR) of Louisville, KY; Demarcus Walker (6-4, 280) of Jacksonville (Sandalwood).

It looks gloomy at the position at this point. Both of the above are committed elsewhere with Hatcher currently verballing for Southern Cal and Walker for Alabama. Still, the Gators have to find a way to get a big defensive end in this class in my opinion and there is absolutely playing time to sell.

Bottom Line on the Defensive Line: The Gators look to be better on the edge in 2013 and there is no getting around the fact they won't be as good up the middle. When you lose two-year starters in the middle like Hunter and Floyd and with what they bring to the table, there is going to be a drop off. More pressing is the fact they need to get bodies in there somehow. It is at the point on the inside where they could have to move offensive linemen over if some of these newcomers don't pan out quickly.

But, as mentioned, the outside is going to be tough and a pretty veteran group of linebackers should help alleviate some of the issues on the inside. Fowler and Bullard are future stars on the edge and they have the size to help out on the inside occasionally as well.

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