Gators' Spring Football: Defensive Tackles with size

The Florida Gators get to practicing in earnest on Wednesday and one of the positions that will be scrutinized is defensive tackle. With numbers and some primo size up front, Florida returns for interior linemen that played some good minutes in 2015 and have at least one all-star candidate in the mix. This spring should be fun to watch for the group.

As has been the case, the defense that Geoff Collins brings to the table really likes speed. With that being the case, we will likely see some of the guys lining up at defensive end, also swinging inside occasionally.

In all it should be a strong group with some really good size and athleticism in the interior.


The contract year…

Kan Li / Scout
 Nobody expects redshirt junior Caleb Brantley (6-2, 314) to return for his senior season. In 2015 Brantley was a play maker up front, very disruptive, and made major strides from before the season and started in 10 games. He had 29 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks. Even without getting on the stat sheet he was disruptive at times.


And this should be his last year on campus as he already entertained thoughts of leaving school early after this past season. Brantley possesses good size and extremely good quicks for that size making him a real target for the future for NFL franchises. But, the Gators get him one more year.


Steady as she goes…

Kan Li / Scout
 Senior Joey Ivie (6-3, 295) had 27 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 2015 all in five starts and 10 games played. He missed time from injury. Ivie showed he too can make plays inside. He’s done it for a couple of years having amassed 24 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss and a sack as a sophomore as well.


A healthy Ivie should be more productive in 2016 and he should be a starter from day one in the interior of the defensive trenches. He has good, but not elite size but has a chance to be an all-conference type of player in 2016 if he can stay on the field.



The big boy…

Kan Li / Scout
 Redshirt sophomore Khairi Clark (6-2, 321) surprised some with the amount he played in 2015. Not necessarily a stat stuffer, Clark saw action in all 14 games and drew one start when injuries hit the defense. He had 16 tackles and a sack n his time on the field as a redshirt freshman.


Clark has the size going for him and if he can make the stride from year two to three that he made from year one to two, we could be on the verge of a breakout player here. He could be a primo nose tackle with his 321 pounds and that is something Florida really hasn’t had in a while.


The freak on the inside…

Kan Li / Scout
 Redshirt sophomore Taven Bryan (6-5, 292) is a freak athlete. Bryan missed two games and most of a third when he was injured returning a fumble against FAU. His time was limited on the field because he had a lot to learn, but he did have 10 tackles on the year.


They just don’t make guys his size that can move as fast as he can. Bryan has some unique skills and if he applies himself and learns he can make a big impact.  He has a bit of a temper that gets him in trouble at times, but that too can be useful if focused in the right direction.


Will he be healthy…

 Redshirt sophomore Thomas Holley (6-3, 320) is one that we really still don’t know about. He played sparingly in seven games and had just three tackles on the year. Holley has a hip injury that set him back for most of the year.


Holley came to Florida having played just one year of high school football. The former basketball star uses his athletic ability to make plays when he is healthy. If he can get back to full health, this is one that could be promising.


Can he play like his brother…

Tim Casey / UAA Communications
 Redshirt freshman Andrew Ivie (6-1, 302) is the brother of Joey listed above. He sat out last year as he grew physically and learned from the older guys on the team.


At 302 pounds he has enough size to be a difference maker on this defense right now. Said to have the same lunch pail mentality as brother Joey, he was a wrestling champion in high school and is supposed to be physically gifted as well. This is a big spring for Andrew Ivie.


A little in and a little out…

 There are a few guys that we can see playing a little defensive end and a little on the inside as well, especially in pass rush situations.  The first to mention is sophomore Cece Jefferson (6-1, 275). Jefferson sprang on to the scene last year and pretty much lived up to his five-star billing come out of high school. As a true freshman he started four games for a loaded defense. He amassed 29 tackles, 8,5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks on the year.


There are two reasons to believe Jefferson could see some time inside. One is that he is already 275 pounds, about the same weight that Jonathan Bullard did damage inside with a year ago. The other is the way he attacks the man in front of him. While Jefferson has the ability to go around blockers, he also showed that when asked to do so, he can shove the lineman in front of him back into the backfield and make a play, ala Bullard.


Tim Casey / UAA Communications
 Another one to watch that could play some end and some tackle is redshirt freshman Jabari Zuniga (6-3, 263). He stayed on the sideline as a true freshman, but reports during the season had him as one that really could have played.


Those reports have continued in the offseason and now he’s at 263 pounds and yet another guy that can play like Bullard did for the Gators in 2015. Maybe of all the redshirts from a year ago, Zuniga is the name we hear most about ready to make something happen on the field.


Tim Casey / UAA Communications
 The last one is just a guess and he likely still needs some time to grow, but redshirt freshman Luke Ancrum (6-5, 251) has the frame to be an elite interior lineman, he just needs to add some bulk and muscle.


With the numbers at end, defensive tackle seems like a logical home for Ancrum, but this isn’t the year for him to make noise, or at least until he gets that added beef we were talking about. 


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