Kan Li / Scout

What I want to see with Gators' defense Friday

The Florida Gators football team will be on exhibition Friday night in the big conclusion to spring drills that should showcase much of what this team has to offer for the 2016 season. The general consensus is that Florida has improved itself at the skill positions on offense and should be more experienced and talented on the offensive line. The defense has some big names to replace, but several guys have had a good spring. Here is what we want to see Friday night on defense.

What: The Orange and Blue Debut

When: Friday April 8, 2016; 7 p.m.

Where: Gainesville, Florida; Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: SEC Network

The Orange and Blue Debut shouldn’t be anything like we have seen in the last 2-3 years. With a full allotment of offensive linemen, there will likely be one or two that are switching sides during the scrimmage, but they have enough to actually have a real competition between two teams.

With so many new faces, here is what I want to see on the defensive side of the ball.

 

DEFENSIVE END

Kan Li / Scout
 The big talk this spring has been sophomore Keivonnis Davis at the RUSH end or the pass rushing specialist. It is a position that needs to also be able to stand up and play linebacker at times. Davis has been a real nice get for Florida late in the 2015 class. He was all set to redshirt, but had the redshirt lifted with just the last four games to play last year. He was advanced and pushing himself enough and got on the field despite showing up to campus just before the season started in 2015.

Davis has some real wheels. With the loss of Alex McCalister early to the NFL, Florida needs some extra speed off the edge. Jordan Sherit will likely start and looks quicker and more athletic than a year ago even after gaining some weight, but he can’t do it all. Let’s see Davis have a disruptive spring game Friday night.

On the strong side, Jabari Zuniga was the big talk heading into the spring and although we heard some solid things about Zuniga in the last month, we expected more. I want to see where Zuniga is by him having a nice day up front as well.

Zuniga was a January commitment a year ago and redshirted with the Gators depth up front. He possesses the tools to be a really good one at this level and starting Friday would be a great thing.

 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Scout
 The staff feels really good about starters Caleb Brantley and Joey Ivie, so hopefully they will get a few reps and then take some time off Friday. We need to see guys like Khairi Clark, Taven Bryan, and Andre Ivie get some extensive playing time inside. CeCe Jefferson will also probably get a good deal of work at the 3-technique, so  it would be good to see Jefferson, who had really nice year as a true freshman last year, make some big plays against a solid interior offensive line that he will see Friday night.

The big one for me will be Bryan. He has shown tremendous athletic ability but showed up on campus raw a couple of years ago. Is he sound enough technique wise to play a bunch and be a disruptive force throughout the scrimmage?  That is what we need to see.

 

LINEBACKER

Kan Li / Scout
 It isn’t very likely that we will see Alex Anzalone due to recuperating from his shoulder injury and we know what we get from future All-SEC linebacker Jarrad Davis. The other expected starter up front is Daniel McMillian and he has made great strides from a year ago when he was confused on the field more than he should have been.

There is little doubt that McMillian has the athletic ability they desire at the position, if the mental part takes a big step forward, he has a chance to be a really good one for the Gators in 2016.

The other particular we want to see is freshman early enrollee David Reese. Reese has drawn a lot of praise as a leader type and a go getter from the time he stepped on campus. Combine that with his athleticism and that he is already 240 pounds… he has the making of a future big time player. But, they need him to be good now, so why not start on the big stage Friday night?

 

SAFETY

Kan Li / Scout
 I know he’s been around a while, but all I have seen and heard is how well Nick Washington has played this spring and that is exciting for the redshirt junior from Jacksonville. He’s heady, and he can run.  Those two things allow him to be in the right place at the right time more often than not this spring and he has made a lot of plays. Yesterday we talked about wanting to see the big plays from the offense. I hope those come from well-designed plays and not busted coverages or missed plays from guys like Washington. I expect him to make his mark in the scrimmage Friday.

The other one that has garnered a lot of attention is true freshman Chauncey Gardner who we should see line up at safety and NICKEL. Gardner came in with the biggest thing a player in the secondary needs and that is to not be scared to make a mistake.

He’s ultra-aggressive and that does cause a mistake or two, but he will learn and get better from those mistakes. You would rather have that than someone that isn’t ready to go out there and square up with a receiver.

 

CORNERBACK

Kan Li / Scout
 He gained 15-17 pounds since he arrived on campus in January and true freshman McArthur Burnett needed every one of them. Now at 174 pounds, Burnett has a little more behind him when he goes against the bigger receivers he will see at practice every day and in the SEC.

Burnett, like Gardner comes in playing with an edge to him… someone that is aggressive and in your face. It makes no sense for someone of his size to play passive, so he makes up for it by playing in-your-face man coverage. I would like to see him lock down a few receivers tonight and make a big play or two to get his career started in a good way.

Duke Dawson has made the transition from safety to corner and evidently has performed well behind closed doors. The position needed a boost as far as numbers, but getting a quality player with game experience is better than can be imagined.  It will be interesting watching him line up on the outside and taking on the receivers face to face during the scrimmage.

Finally, a player that was expected a lot from a year ago but faced a myriad of minor injuries that kept him off the field a lot is sophomore Chris Williamson.

He was also not too keen on being aggressive last year, but that has evidently changed. Now Williamson is healthy and he is playing aggressively and will be relied upon this fall. A good scrimmage from him in front of all the spectators would be a big thing to further his confidence. Let’s see it happen.

 


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