Before we get started, I am going to list this group as a whole and talk about the individuals where they are lining up on the depth chart as it is today. The staff has shown such a propensity to move these guys around that actually listing them by position (SAM, MIKE, WILL) seems about pointless. The same three starters could all be playing different positions, and starting, when the season starts.
Darrin Kitchens: The lone senior at the linebacker position, Kitchens has proven to be very versatile in his time at Florida and now is in a position to start at the WILL spot in his last year on campus.
Through January: he has been one of those guys that doesn't seem to get many chances to shine but when he is on the field he racks up numbers and seems to play well.
Improvements since January: He has made some strides after moving over from playing mostly the SAM throughout his career. As mentioned he hasn't gotten on the field a lot in his time at Florida, but the staff took to him big time in the spring.
Needs to work on: The new position, just knowing it. He has a very solid all-around game, so it is all about knowing the playbook at the new position.
Expectations for August: The Gators lose a good deal in pass coverage with the loss of Jelani Jenkins. That ios the void he must fill and work on the most, but he should do well there and provide another guy that can be a menace in pass rush.
Ronald Powell: Red-shirt junior who missed all of last season and is somewhat changing up positions.
Through January: Has been the BUCK hybrid end-backer since his arrival. He had a slow freshman year coming to Florida as the top player in the country out of high school. As s sophomore he came on late in the season and led the team in sacks after his slow start. Was set to have a huge year as a true junior and was hurt late in the spring game in 2012 and missed the entire 2012 season.
Improvements since January: Has not practiced since April 2012. They simply have to get his torn knee back in shape and that is all he has tried to work on. p> Needs to work on: Just be healthy. It is to be seen how affected he will be from the double injury to his knee.
Expectations for August: Listed as the starter at SAM which means they want more size at linebacker and they want him to provide extra pass rush from the linebacker position. If he can play at a high level, it is ‘game on' for this defense.
Michael Taylor: Junior linebacker that has seen a lot of playing time in his career and is a fight for the starting WILL linebacker spot.
Through January: Has started several games when guys have gone down and has been a solid player. Big time hitter and plays excited during games.
Improvements since January: He has added some bulk which he needed and he evidently played well at the WILL this spring.
Needs to work on: Speed has been an issue and now he will be asked to do a lot more coverage than when he was playing the MIKE. Not sure how much he can improve the speed at this point, so he needs to be exceptionally sharp with his instincts.
Expectations for August: Push for that starting WILL spot where he is in a dogfight with Kitchens.
Neiron Ball: Junior listed as SAM linebacker.
Through January: played a great deal last year and was working his way back from being out of football for over a year. He is probably just now back in the full swing of things health wise and he adds a little more size than some or the others at linebacker.
Improvements since January: He improved a lot but not quite enough to keep them from listing an injured Powell ahead of him. Ball's biggest strides have just been the physical part of playing football as a whole after returning from a spinal sickness/injury.
Needs to work on: playing a little meaner. He has the size, speed, strength to do it all, he just needs to get down to the nitty gritty and smack some people around.
Expectations for August: Should be a solid player and ready to contribute a lot. With his physical attributes he should be a star on special teams as well as really pushing Powell as the starting SAM.
Antonio Morrison: True sophomore that is listed as the starter at the MIKE or middle linebacker position.
Through January: Had a very good freshman season in 2012 showing that he is already one of the hardest hitters, if not the hardest hitter on the team. Plays the game like you want a linebacker to play it… nasty.
Improvements since January: He has become the leader of the defense since the end of spring. That would be a hard pill to swallow for most sophomores, but the players flock to this guy and he has taken on the charge from the coaches to be that guy. He is making all the calls on defense now and has the seal of approval from the coaching staff.
Needs to work on: Not much. Just continue to lead and help mold that locker room into a fierce unit.
Expectations for August: He will have a lot on his shoulders and he just can't let it get to him. Stay healthy.
Jeremi Powell: Red-shirt freshman currently playing the WILL position.
Through January: Wasn't ready last year and had a little more experience ahead of him to even think about getting on the field.
Improvements since January: He plays the game fast and he is learning quickly. Will be a good outside linebacker before he leaves.
Needs to work on: Size is the main issue. He has to be able to bulk up without losing his overall speed which is his strength.
Expectations for August: He will play some this year. He is another that should be a special teams' star with his speed and athletic ability and he can turn that into more playing time on defense as well.
Daniel McMillian: true freshman that enrolled early and completed the spring on a strong note.
Through January: High school All-American that played in nearby Jacksonville.
Improvements since January: He had everything to learn and got quite far. Of the three early enrolled linebackers in the 2013 class, he was the only one to finish the spring healthy.
Needs to work on: Has all the physical tools to be an elite player. Really built a lot like Lerentee McCray and plays the game fast like McCray, but probably a bit more athletic. He just has to learn more about what he is doing.
Expectations for August: There is enough depth and talent in the older players to allow McMillian to learn at his pace. Just stay focused and keep learning from the older guys to get on the field as much as possible.
Alex Anzalone: True freshman linebacker that could play any of the three positions.
Through January: High school All-American from Pennsylvania that is a good enough athlete to be a super running back prospect as well.
Improvements since January: Was doing well until a shoulder injury early on sidelined him for almost the entire spring.
Needs to work on: Get healthy. Has a lot to work on including knowing what he is doing on the field.
Expectations for August: He has the physical build to be able to play early as well as the intelligence to fight through all of the time he missed. He will have to earn it with a bit of experience ahead of him.
Matt Rolin: True freshman that is built in the SAM linebacker mold.
Through January: High school-All-American from Virginia that missed the end of his senior season due to injury.
Improvements since January: Missed the entire spring still recovering from injury. Recently he has been cleared to do more workouts and should be ready before the first game of the season.
Needs to work on: Has a lot to do. He needs to put on siginifcant weight and muscle, but he has to get healthy first. It will be hard for Rolin not to red-shirt in 2013, but will have a great shot at big playing time in 2014.
Expectations for August: Prepare like he's going to play, but don't think that is the expectation right now. Has to get physically ready to compete and work on building up his frame.