Kan Li / Scout

New Faces Going Places: Gators' Defense

With the collapse at the end of the season in 2015, the Florida Gators are looking for an immediate and large infusion of talent. After a very productive and competitive spring of football, here are eight new faces that we expect to make an impact on the defense.

For the fans, spring is all about who’s going to help step up and make the team better. This spring was one of the most competitive in memory because Florida added 13 new comers that all brought something to the table. You will find a few of those on this list along with a few others that have been on campus but haven’t made their mark yet.

Here are eight players on defense that we expect to make a new impact in 2016.

Logan Bowles / USA TODAY Sports
 Quite honestly we expected to hear a little bit more out of redshirt freshman defensive end Jabari Zuniga than we did this spring, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t doing well. Zuniga changed his body after his arrival, lost some weight and no longer should be considered as a guy that could be moved inside. Now he is longer and lean and built for getting to the backfield from the edge.

In the spring game we saw just how quick he can be and he was a bit disruptive facing the first team offensive front. He had a good spring and we expect him to get even better at a rapid rate.

Kan Li / Scout
 Keivonnis Davis was one of the talks of the entire spring and made a move late last year losing his redshirt with only four games left in the season. He’s added solid weight since his arrival on campus and looks to get even bigger.

Davis brings speed to the front and a relentless attitude when it comes to getting to the ball carrier. He had 1.5 tackles for loss in the spring game including a sack.  He should give starter Jordan Sherit a healthy dose of competition this fall and push to get more and more playing time.

Kan Li / Scout
 The surprise of the spring game on defense was redshirt freshman linebacker Kylan Johnson. A quarterback in high school, Johnson came to Florida to play safety. Quickly outgrowing the secondary, he’s a 225+ pound linebacker now. But, he’s a linebacker with speed from his secondary days and smarts from his quarterback days.

Johnson led all Gators in tackles Friday night and the big thing is he showed that he was willing to stick is head inside and mix it up with the big boys. That is a hard thing to do from someone that has taken the path to his position that he has. This is one player that athletically seems to have unlimited potential and a guy that looks like he will help in 2016.

Logan Bowles / USA TODAY Sports
 One surprise name that we have mentioned is junior walk-on linebacker Cristian Garcia. A relative unknown he did make two tackles on special teams a year ago, but we first noticed him out at spring ball this past month.

Garcia has size at 6-foot-1 and 233 pounds, but he also showed leadership ability out on the field Friday night calling plays and getting people in position. We have seen him make a few plays this spring and he was second on the orange team with four tackles in the scrimmage Friday and also had a quarterback hurry. If he can add just a little bit of depth to a group with not a lot of numbers that could be significant.

Kan Li / Scout
 He has a good ways to go, but he is coming hard this spring and could use the offseason to really hone his awareness of what he is supposed to do on the field by getting in the film room.  Freshman middle linebacker David Reese is expected to make a sizable impact in 2016 and again it is at a position of much need in terms of depth.

Reese had three tackles on the Orange team on Friday, but it is his quick understanding of things that has the staff excited for this year and beyond. Already at 240 pounds, he has the size to compete in the SEC, but it is his ability to pick things up quickly that has been most impressive.

Kan Li / Scout
 One guy you will never miss on the field is true freshman safety / NICKEL Chauncey Gardner. Gardner is always hyped and drawing attention to himself with his antics or jawing with the offense. He also is a guy that makes plays.

Blessed with the courage to jump in and mix it up with anyone, Gardner is very physical at the point of attack and should be very good at playing physical receivers in the slot. He’s also heady and a book worm when it comes to learning the playbook. He led the orange team in tackles and loves to stick his face in the melee on defense and do whatever he has to do to get to the ball carrier.

Kan Li / Scout
 Sophomore cornerback Chris Williamson missed a lot of last year with an injury. He also entered a season ago as a guy that wasn’t exactly ready to play aggressive man-to-man defense when called upon and that had to be worked on.

This spring things changed in a good way for Williamson. Some of that aggressive nature they saw from him in high school reappeared. In the spring game he went pretty unnoticed, except for one eye catching tackle he made on Jordan Scarlett in the open field. On a toss to the right, Scarlett got outside quickly but was faced with Williamson one-on-one with some space between them. Williamson closed the gap quickly and hog tied Scarlett for no gain drawing surprise cheers from the crowd.

Logan Bowles / USA TODAY Sports
 There is likely no one on this list that makes a bigger difference on the team than freshman junior college transfer Eddy Pineiro. Pineiro has been a social media hound all off-season, but the kid just seems to enjoy life.

His coaches enjoy him too, especially when he is making 46, 52, and 56 yard field goals in The Swamp in front of 40,000 people. There were so many times a year ago when Jim McElwain wouldn’t even try a reasonable length field goal and the Gators came up empty on the scoreboard.  That looks to have changed in a big way with Pineiro on board. 


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