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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.