Gators' Spring Football: Size and speed at DE

With Jonathan Bullard and Alex McCalister out of the mix in 2016, expect less specialization among the defensive ends on Florida’s roster and more players playing different spots. We should see the strong side guys playing on the weak side (RUSH), we should see some of the strong side ends playing some three-technique tackle.  They could line up anywhere.

A lot of the moving around will depend on down and distance situations, but pinning these guys down to one spot is hard. So we won’t try too much.


The underrated one…

 Redshirt senior Bryan Cox (6-3, 268) probably doesn’t get the respect he deserves.  On a top 10 defense in 2015, you might be surprised to learn that Cox finished sixth on the team in tackles (45), fourth on the team in tackles for loss (10.5), and third on the team in sacks (3.5). With Bullard, McCalister, and linebacker Antonio Morrison gone now, his numbers move up the list in all the categories among returners.

Cox and Bullard started more games than any other linemen and he played consistently throughout his time on the field. He’s got great size and strength and he plays the game intelligently. His senior year is upon us, so look for Cox to step up to an even higher level.

Came on strong…

 Even though redshirt junior Jordan Sherit (6-4, 250) started the first two games of the year it took him a while to come on and play at a high level. At the end of last season he was playing well and finished with 28 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack.

If Sherit can continue the push he made late in the year, he should have a good year as a Gat or and should be expected to win that starting RUSH end spot designated for pass rushers. 


Playmaker in waiting…

Tim Casey / UAA Communications
 Redshirt sophomore Justus Reed (6-3, 240) didn’t see the field a lot last year and it was surprising to me. He played very minimal in just nine games but seemed to show flashes of elite quickness and speed off the edge when he was out there. His stat line went 9 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and a sack.

The word in the off-season program has been very good concerning Reed and now that he is at least 240 pounds he should be able to bring a little more with him when he meets the ball carrier. This is a big spring for Reed and with McCalister out it is one less hurdle to get some big playing time on the field.


Living up to the hype…

Kan Li / Scout
 What I like about sophomore CeCe Jefferson (6-1, 275) more than anything is that in his first year he flashed enough different tools to believe he could play three different positions on the line. Jefferson played in all 14 games as a true frosh and finished the year with 29 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 1 pass broken up, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery.

In terms of position, he has elite quickness to play the RUSH end at times, he also has the size and the power to play the strong side or even a little three-technique tackle in passing situations. His strong hands and quick feet are a special blend which allows him at only 6-foot-1 to be so productive.


Was it a wasted redshirt…

 They had to see some good stuff in sophomore Keivonnis Davis (6-4, 230) to pull his redshirt in the last few games of the season in 2015. That certainly wasn’t the plan, but of the guys redshirting at the time, he was the one most ready to contribute at a spot they needed because of injuries. His skills include quickness and tenacity which landed him 4 tackles during the limited time he played in the four games he played in.

What made his late season jump into the playing group impressive is that Davis was the last of the 2015 class to show up on campus, missing all of June and July and showing up in August after finally clearing admissions. His drive and added size should mean he is ready to step it up another notch in 2016.


Just waiting to make his move…

Tim Casey / UAA Communications
 Maybe the most anticipated player that didn’t play a year ago is redshirt freshman Jabari Zuniga (6-3, 263). Blessed with great size and strength Zuniga has been tearing up the off-season workouts and should make life difficult this spring for the offensive linemen lining up across.

Zuniga was a late offer by the Florida staff because he did a lot of growing as a senior in high school and with his skills on film he looked like an elite prospect. Now he has some weight to bring to the punch when attacking ball carriers and we expect Zuniga to be a menace.


Where will he find a home…

Tim Casey / UAA Communications
 It is still a wait and see mode with redshirt freshman Luke Ancrum (6-5, 251). He could stay as a strong side end where his basketball background may give him the quickness off the edge to eventually make a difference. Or he could move inside and we already talked about him as a possibility at tackle.

He is one you would like to give the opportunity to grow and see where it takes him, but with all of these bodies up front he personally might not be able to afford that. With that in mind, this might be a big spring for Ancrum.


The young buck…

Tim Casey / UAA Communications
 Freshman Jordan Smith (6-5, 225) arrived on campus in January as a surprise to the recruiting efforts of Jim McElwain and defensive line coach Chris Rumph. Long and lean, you would expect Smith to likely redshirt, but he has come to campus with other thoughts on his mind.

WE will have to see what the official weights are when they are released again this week, but 225 is a good starting place for a player that should still be in the middle of their senior year of high school. All the work and effort it took to sign early means he will work hard when here as well. Nothing more you can ask for from the former 4-star prospect. 

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