Notebook: Searching for depth at DT

It wouldn't be fair to expect no drop off at defensive tackle after the Gators lost Sharrif Floyd and Omar Hunter. The two were both dependable starters for the last two years in Gainesville, and with them preparing for the NFL, the Gators after left searching for answers in the middle. At this point in the spring, Muschamp wants to see more of a consistent effort from the experienced players.

Will Muschamp went into the spring expecting Dominique Easley to play wherever the Gators were the weakest, whether that was at defensive tackle or defensive end. If the season were starting soon, that would be inside at defensive tackle.

That means the Gators have to find another starter and more depth to come in off the bench. Senior Damien Jacobs is one candidate next to Easley. He played last season after transferring in from junior college, but with a year under his belt, he's starting to take steps that make the coaches believe he can be trusted to play extended snaps.

"I think Damien Jacobs is playing very well," Muschamp said. "He didn't play as well Saturday as I'd like for him to, but I think consistently through 12 practices he's improved himself and he's gotten better."

Darious Cummings and Leon Orr are the other experienced candidates to factor into the battle for playing time in the middle of the defensive line. Cummings transferred from the same junior college as Jacobs, and Muschamp said last week that he's further along in his development than Jacobs was at this point last year.

Orr has been a role player during his last two years on the field, but he'll be needed for more than that in 2013.

"Darious needs to continue to get himself in shape to sustain and play -- consistency in his performance," Muschamp said. "Same with Leon Orr -- consistency in his performance."

Orr played last year

SAFETY STILL IN FLUX: Muschamp said on Tuesday that Jaylen Watkins will likely start the spring at safety, but they're still searching for depth at the position. Even if the production doesn't equal what the Gators got from Matt Elam and Josh Evans last year, Muschamp just wants players he can trust in the back end of the defense.

"We can't afford, when the ball breaks the line of scrimmage, to not get people on the ground," Muschamp said. "That's something that every good defense I've been a part of, you've been really good tacklers and getting guys on the ground in space. We've got to continue to improve that. We've done some nice things at times, but not enough. With the inexperience at the position, we've got to improve."

MCMILLIAN GETTING REPS: The linebacker depth is hurt this spring, mostly because of injuries to freshmen Alex Anzalone and Matt Rolin, but that's allowing the third freshman early enrollee -- Daniel McMillian -- to get increased reps. While the Florida coaches continue to install the scheme on defense, it's always a challenge for the freshmen.

It's no different for McMillian. He's having his up-and-down moments during the spring as all freshmen do, but the coaches can easily see the reason they wanted him in Gainesville. He has talent to make an immediate impact.

"Daniel's doing well," Muschamp said. "Athletically, he is the right guy to be coaching. He's got instincts, he's got toughness. He was up here on Sunday after the third practice, the first day in pads, for two hours watching film by himself. It goes back to the same thing -- football is important to him.

"Some young players have a hard time with that, because they've always been better and they didn't have to put in the extra time. Daniel's working, and he's the absolute right guy to be coaching."

He's getting the respect of the returning players, too.

"He loves to tackle people, I'll tell you that," sophomore defensive end Dante Fowler said. "He loves to tackle people, shoot gaps, he can cover really well. He's just one of those linebackers that's just meant to play linebacker. He's really good.

McMillian will be forced onto the field this year


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