New faces, leaders on defense

The NFL draft is a two edged sword for big time football programs. One edge is a public endorsement to recruits about the type of player that is recruited at your school and how he was coached. The other edge is the fact that the talent heading on is no longer on the roster. With five defenders drafted last month and three more on free agent contacts, Florida will field a new look on defense.

There may be a little hesitation heading into 2013 knowing that you have to replace two 3-year starters at linebacker, a first round defensive tackle, and both safeties among others.

The talent is one thing, but leadership will have to totally turn over in 2013. Gone are Jon Bostic, a three year starter at middle linebacker who was the clear leader of the front seven barking out commands and running the defense up front. Also gone is his sidekick Jelani Jenkins who could spell Bostic as the man in charge if the former had to miss a down or two.

First round pick Matt Elam is also gone and the strong safety was the heart and soul of a secondary that was one of the best in the nation in 2012.

A new group of leaders will have to emerge in 2013 and Florida head coach Will Muschamp likes the makeup of his unit in those terms.

"Losing Jelani and Jon inside were two guys that were very productive players and smart," Muschamp told a crowd gathered to hear him talk on his recent speaking tour. "We put a lot on our linebackers as far as getting us aligned and checked at the line of scrimmage."

But, Muschamp has a sophomore that he has heaped a pile of praise on and says that the youngster is ready to take on the challenge of being that leader.

"Antonio Morrison has all of those leadership abilities," the head man said. "He doesn't have as many snaps as those guys, but he's a guy we are excited about."

Losing Sharrif Floyd in the first round was a big loss for sure. But, Muschamp believes he has three guys that will play and lead by example up front.

"Dominique Easley is a guy that plays with a lot of passion and emotion," he said of the senior defensive tackle. "I think Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler (both sophomores) are two guys that are coming on and feel very comfortable about the front seven."

If there is a little bit of a concern it is at safety. With both starters from 2012 playing in the NFL, some young and less experienced guys are going to have to step up. Senior Jaylen Watkins was moved from corner and he is a possibility, but Muschamp wants more from the others as well.

"I would like to be a little more vocal at the safety position whether it is Jabari Gorman, Valdez Showers, Marcus Maye… some of those guys need to take a step forward," he said. "Like linebacker for us, at safety you have to communicate."


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