As we head into one of the more question loaded seasons in recent memory for the Florida Gators, there are several key questions the defensive staff needs to have answered in order for it to be a successful year on that side of the ball. We will tackle some of the bigger ones here.
Depth at Linebacker
Antonio Morrison will not be ready in August, we don’t know when Morrison will be able to ht the field. The numbers aren’t scary o at the position, but they are at a place where injuries need to be kept at a minimum and some guys need to establish or reestablish themselves.
Let’s start with Jarrad Davis. The junior linebacker has been a nice player for Florida in the past when he has been on the field. Davis has the size and potential to be a great one, but he missed the entire spring recovering from injury. He’s healthy now. He needs to get in the mix and make a name for himself quickly so that he can be depended on.
With he and Morrison out, the spring did allow for juniors Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian to get a great number of repetitions and move to the front of the line. The staff feels good about these two.
To a lesser extent they feel good about sophomore Matt Rolin, but he should be able to add something to the mix.
Jeremi Powell should be a situational player as well, he could bring some speed off the edge if he can work himself in to position to do so.
I expect freshman Rayshad Jackson to redshirt, but that depends on the things above coming to life.
That is the extent of the linebacker unit.
Find a Pass Rush
Dante Fowler is gone. In his steed will be junior Alex McCalister. They expect big things from McCalister but he can’t do it all by himself. The answer needs to come from RUSH ends Justus Reed or Jordan Sherit or maybe a true freshman like Jabari Zuniga or CeCe Jefferson.
McMillian could plug in a few snaps a game off the edge and we mentioned Powell, but the bulk of the help needs to come from that group above.
Both Sherit and Reed showed moments of both the quickness on the edge and the power needed to be that guy. More consistency from both will allow the staff to breathe a little easier.
Zuniga enters August as a prospect with elite tools but underpublicized . He could help immediately. Jefferson has elite size and is likely a strong side end and even part time defensive tackle at this point. But, he does have some unique tools as an edge passer.
The numbers are there to find the right guys.
Get the Freshmen Cornerbacks Ready
There is little doubt that Florida has elite prospects at corner. But the position is dreadfully thin and they need all of them to play in 2015.
Vernon Hargreaves is an All-American and should lock down his side of the field when he is able to stay out there. Sophomores Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson look to be the next in line to be all conference players at the position.
Brian Poole is an excellent NICKEL player and could have a huge senior season. The Gators will play in NICKEL or DIME personnel most of the time so Poole will get a lot of time out there and likely be replaced by some of the safeties on the roster.
That’s four players for just three spots and there are only two left. Redshirt freshman Deiondre Porter and true freshman Chris Williamson. Both are true athletes with speed and length, athletically they are just what the staff needs. They just need to be prepared to step on the field.
There we have the three biggest questions at each level of the defense.