Spring Preview: Defensive Line

Spring football at Florida starts on March 13 and there aren't many groups that will see more movement from a year ago than along the defensive line. Gone are starters Sharrif Floyd and Omar Hunter at tackle and BUCK Lerentee McCray, they should be in the NFL this year. Also gone is key backup Earl Okine. This should be a fun unit to watch this spring.

With injuries along the front at Florida we will likely see some players double trained at multiple positions, because of that it doesn't make too much sense to pigeonhole some of these players at one spot. We will talk about that as we go.

Defensive End / BUCK

Ronald Powell (JR, 6-4, 244), Jonathan Bullard (SO, 6-3, 271), Dante Fowler (SO, 6-3, 280), Alex McCalister (R-FR, 6-6, 240), Quinteze Williams (R-FR, 6-5, 276), Bryan Cox Jr.(R-FR, 6-3, 235)

What you notice right away by looking at this group from afar is that the only upper classman in the group is Powell. The problem with Powell is that he will be sitting out the spring still recuperating from a knee injury that he suffered last spring and then reinjured sometime during the season, but away from the field. We won't be seeing him until August.

A healthy Powell at BUCK would likely move Fowler completely to the defensive end position this spring because of his size and the fact that he keeps growing. Instead, Fowler will likely get a lot of work at BUCK and DE. Fowler was active during his time on the field and finished with 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

One guy to really watch at the BUCK position this spring, especially with the absence of Powell is McCalister. He redshirted in 2012, but the staff and especially Muschamp has been raving about McCalister since last season. If he can continue to put on good weight, he could play a huge role in 2013.

Cox is the only other one that would fit the BUCK position at this time. Time will tell how he will perform, but he seems physically ready to give it a good try this spring. Also expect linebackers Neiron Ball, Daniel McMillan, and Alex Anzalone to spend some time at BUCK this spring.

At the defensive end position, they are looking for a little more meat. Bullard was a menace seemingly every time he stepped on the field. As a true freshman he had 27 tackles, five tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. Bullard is a load to handle off the end.

Fowler and Bullard will likely split a lot of time at the defensive end spot and backing them up could be Williams, who red-shirted a year ago. Williams could grow into a tackle as well or even move to offense before it is all done.

Defensive Tackle / Nose Tackle

Dominique Easley (SR, 6-2, 290), Damien Jacobs (SR, 6-3, 284), Leon Orr (JR, 6-5, 305), Darious Cummings (JR, 6-2, 305), Joey Ivie (FR, 6-4, 269)

As the 2012 season ended it appeared the interior of the defensive line may almost have been vacant this spring. With the guys that left, we are looking for Easley to make the move back inside and it should be a better position for him. His quicks are great for an interior guy, less on the outside, but he is a force to be reckoned with and when all was said and done this offseason, he is likely the most important person to be here this spring because of his ability and the need at the position. Easley missed a bit of time last year due to injury but should be good to go. Still in his time on the field he accounted for 27 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, four quarterback sacks, a fumble recovery, and a pass break up.

While Easley should command the defensive tackle position, there should be a race for the Nose tackle spot. The bottom line is these guys want to get on the field and the battle between Jacobs, Orr, and Cummings should be a good one.

Cummings is the recent junior college transfer and will be suiting up for the first time in Gator gear. Orr finished with 15 tackles, five tackles for loss, and one sack in 2012. Jacobs played less in 2012 and finished with 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Ivie appears to be a year away from contributing, but that could change with good weight in the offseason. We will have to continue to follow that.

In passing situations we will likely see Bullard and Fowler inside at times. They both have the size and quickness to be big pass rushers inside and likewise the two would be great bookends on a three man line of scrimmage.

The spring additions of Easley (who could have bolted for the NFL) and Cummings, saved the look of the interior of the defensive line. Alex McCalister suddenly becomes the focal point of the spring along the defensive line, but he should have a lot of help from various players at the BUCK position.


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