Week two review: Gators’ defense

After two weeks of fall camp, the Florida defense doesn’t have many questions remaining.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Caleb Brantley is a popular breakout pick after the media was allowed to watch open practice last week. The players are also on board with it, as multiple defensive players and offensive linemen trying to block Brantley are all pointing at the redshirt sophomore as the breakout player. If it’s not Brantley, Taven Bryan seems next in line after redshirting last season and now poised to push for a starting berth.

DEFENSIVE END: We’ll stick Jonathan Bullard here, but he’s going to switch between defensive end and defensive tackle throughout the fall. The senior looks to be in great shape this fall and seems poised to go out with his biggest season at Florida. The rest of the pass rush will have to come from Bryan Cox and Alex McCalister.

CeCe Jefferson has been the freshman defensive lineman receiving the most praise. Florida safety Marcus Maye said that all the players knew about Jefferson because of his ranking on recruiting sites and since he has been around the team for years, but even if that wasn’t the case, the players all say they would be impressed with his fall. He seems mentally and physically ready to play from the first game on this fall.

LINEBACKER: McElwain said earlier this week than the Gators will play almost exclusively nickel or dime in six or seven games this season, which means the Florida depth chart at linebacker is in much better shape than it seems. Despite signing one linebacker in the last two recruiting classes, the Gators should still be fine this year as long as there aren’t many injuries.

There’s still no update on Antonio Morrison, but if he’s not able to go, it sounds like Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis would see a majority of the reps when there are only two linebackers on the field. Anzalone is the vocal leader on the field if Morrison isn’t out there. Daniel McMillian looks impressive physically and could see a big role if Morrison is out for some time this fall.

CORNERBACK: No change is good news for Florida in the secondary, and that’s what it looks like at the midpoint in camp. With Vernon Hargreaves III, Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson on the outside and Brian Poole playing the nickel, the Florida secondary took off during the second half of last season. That’s still the group that makes the most sense this fall.

The strength of this position makes things a lot easier for Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, whose defenses have always taken chances with blitzes to create extra pressure on the quarterback. This is also the best secondary Collins has ever had, meaning they should be able to cover opposing receivers for longer while the blitz gets to the quarterback. It makes a lot of sense for Collins to dial up extra pressure this fall.

SAFETY: The only question at cornerback is how snaps will be split between Tabor and Wilson on the opposite side of Hargreaves. At safety, there really aren’t many questions. Marcus Maye and Keanu Neal are the two starters at the position, and Duke Dawson will figure into the secondary at some place. His versatility will be an important piece this fall.


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