You have to wonder what might have happened if the Florida coaching staff had paid as much attention to offensive line recruiting from 2010-15 as they did the defensive line. While the O-line – and the offense – struggled during this time, the defense flourished. While it took transfers and defensive linemen switching over from offense to salvage whatever success there was on the O-line, Florida’s defensive line played at a ferocious level.
The Gators recruited 31 D-linemen between 2010-15 with three earning All-America honors, three selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, three others drafted and three others signing free agent contracts. Four players changed positions to help out at tight end and the O-line.
Because the recruiting has been solid throughout the years, UF goes into 2016 with 17 defensive linemen if you count the three recruits from the 2016 class. So if you’re grading for efficiency, then consider Florida well above average since 2010.
Ronald Powell, DE: Powell was considered the #1 player in the nation coming out of high school. He followed up a fine freshman season in 2010 with 6 sacks in 2011. He suffered a knee injury in the Orange and Blue game then reinjured the same knee in the fall so he missed all of 2012. He was still on the mend in 2013 when he started eight games and finished with 4 sacks. Selected in the 5th round of the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.
Sharrif Floyd, DT: Floyd more than lived up to the hype coming out of high school, where he was the top DT in the nation. He was a factor from the beginning and made both first team All-SEC and first team All-America in 2012. For his career he played in 37 games with 26 starts. Floyd had 115 tackles including 26 for loss with 4.5 sacks and 3 blocked field goals. Taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings.
Dominique Easley, DT: Easley was the #2 DT in the nation. He was well on his way to an All-SEC and All-America season in 2013 when he went down with an ACL injury in practice before the Kentucky game. He played in 32 games in his career with 26 starts. During his career he was in on 72 tackles including 18 for loss and 5.5 sacks. Easley was selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots.
Lynden Trail, DE: Rated 4 stars coming out of high school, Trail took a redshirt in 2010 and didn’t play in any games in 2011. After the 2011 season, Trail transferred to Norfolk State where he was a two-time D1AA All-American and a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award as the top defensive player in D1AA. Trail signed a free agent contract with the Washington Redskins after the 2014 season.
Assessment: You have to give this group an A grade. Even though Trail transferred out, he was a two-time D1AA All-American. The other three are all in the NFL and two (Floyd and Easley) were first round draft picks.
Tevin Westbrook, DE: He played in three games as a DE in 2011 then moved to tight end prior to the 2012 season. At TE he caught 11 passes for 111 yards and 2 TDs. Signed a free agent contract with the Tennessee Titans and later signed a practice squad contract with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Clay Burton, DE: He early enrolled in January of 2011. He was moved to tight end during spring practice. He started 25 games in his UF career and caught 21 passes for 180 yards and 1 TD. Signed a free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills after the 2014 season.
Assessment: I’m going to give this class a B-. Even though neither Burton nor Westbrook played on the defensive side of the ball, they made contributions and started at tight end on offense.
Dante Fowler Jr., DE: The #10 defensive end nationally out of high school, Fowler spent three years at UF, made second team All-SEC in 2013, first team All-SEC and second team All-America as a junior in 2014. As a junior he had 60 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. During his career he had 140 tackles, 34 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks and 5 forced fumbles. Taken in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Alex McCalister, DE: McCalister made his mark as a rush end. He took a redshirt in 2012 and played mostly on special teams in 2013. In 2014 he played in all 12 games with 23 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 6 sacks. In nine games in 2015, McCalister had 26 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He was taken in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Bryan Cox Jr., DE: The son of a Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker, Cox has put together two solid seasons since taking a redshirt in 2012. He had 29 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 4 sacks in 2014 and in 2015 he had 45 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He’s set to be the defensive team leader in 2016.
Jonathan Bullard, DE/DT: Bullard was a 5-star recruit and the #4 defensive end in the entire country out of Shelby Crest, the same North Carolina high school that gave UF Brandon Spikes. His solid career was capped by a first team All-America selection in 2015 when he had 66 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. During his career, Bullard was in on 178 tackles including 33.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. He was selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the
Quinteze Williams, DE: Williams came to Florida as a defensive end but after a redshirt year in 2012, was moved to the offensive line. After a 2013 season in which he saw no action, Williams transferred to West Texas A&M where he is a 5th year senior DE.
Jafar Mann, DT: Arrested in November of 2012 for possession of marijuana, Mann transferred to Alabama State.
Damian Jacobs, DT: Jacobs was a juco transfer who played in 23 games in two years with four starts. He finished his UF career with 34 tackles including 6 for loss and 2.5 sacks.
Assessment: Fowler and Bullard were All-Americans. Cox has a chance to make All-SEC this year. McCalister was enough of a sack master to get drafted and Jacobs gave the Gators two solid years out of juco. The losses of Williams and Mann were minor flesh wounds. Give this class an A.
Jarran Reed, DE: Reed did not qualify and went to East Mississippi Community College. After helping Alabama win the national championship in 2016, he was picked by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Jay-Nard Bostwick, DT: Bostwick was one of the top DTs in the nation out of high school, but took a redshirt in 2013, then played in only five games in 2014. He was granted his release in the summer of 2015 and after trying to transfer to Miami, wound up at West Texas A&M. He was arrested on burglary charges in his home town of Port St. Lucie back in December.
Darrious Cummings, DT: After transferring to UF from East Mississippi Community College, Bostwick played in 22 games with 16 starts. He finished with 45 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and 1 interception.
Jordan Sherit, DE: Sherit was a redshirt in 2013, then played nine games in 2014. In 2015 Sherit played in 13 games, started four and was in on 25 tackles with 1.5 sacks. He will be a redshirt junior in 2016.
Antonio Riles, DT: During his redshirt year of 2013 he was moved to offensive guard. He was a backup in 2014 when he played in four games, then started six of the 11 games he played in during the 2015 season.
Joey Ivie, DT: Ivie contributed as a freshman in 2013 then played in all 12 games with 1 start in 2014. He blossomed in 2015, playing in 10 games (injuries caused him to miss four) with five starts. Ivie finished the season with 27 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Ivie will be a senior in 2016.
Caleb Brantley, DT: After a redshirt season in 2013, Brantley played in 12 games with a start in 2014, then played in 13 games with 10 starts in 2015. He had 29 tackles with 6.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks in 2015. He will be a fourth-year junior in 2016.
Assessment: Even though Reed didn’t qualify and Bostwick transferred out, this has been a very good class. Cummings was solid in his two years out of juco. Brantley and Ivie will be an outstanding tandem of defensive tackles in 2016. Sherit should have a breakout 2016 while Riles could be a starter on the O-line. Give this group a very solid B+.
Thomas Holley, DT: Holley was a 4-star recruit out of high school, but he’s been slowed by injuries. He missed 2014 with an injury and was redshirted. He played in seven games in 2015, played in seven games and was in on 3 tackles. Lost about 40 pounds and tried to make the move to DE in the spring.
Gerald Willis, DE: Willis was the 6th-ranked defensive end in the country coming out of high school in New Orleans. As a freshman, Willis played in eight games with 14 tackles. Trouble on and off the field forced his dismissal in January of 2015. He transferred to Miami where he sat out the 2015 season.
Justus Reed, DE: After a redshirt season in 2013, Reed played in nine games in 2015 with 9 tackles and 1 sack.
Khairi Clark, DT: He was rated the #5 DT in the country coming out of Chaminade Madonna High School in Hollywood. After a redshirt in 2014, he played in 14 games in 2015 where he was in on 16 tackles and was credited with 1 sack.
Taven Bryan, DE: After playing high school ball in Wyoming, Bryan came east to sign with UF. He was redshirted in 2014, then played in 12 games in 2014 where he was in on 10 tackles and got an assist on a sack. Could be moved inside permanently in 2016.
Assessment: Bryan, Clark and Reed all contributed and all three have outstanding potential but Holley has had injury problems and Willis was dismissed. So, the grade for now is a C-.
CeCe Jefferson, DE: He was the #3 player in the nation coming out of high school. As a freshman he played in 14 games, made 29 tackles and 8.5 for loss. He also had 3.5 sacks. Played a lot of DT in the spring of 2016.
Keivonnis Davis, DE: Considered a ferocious rush end coming out of Miami Central, Davis played in four games as a true freshman and was in on four tackles. He could be a factor off the edge in 2016.
Luke Ancrum, DE: He wasn’t highly recruited out of high school and redshirted in 2015. He bulked up and looked like a player who will be in the rotation during spring practice.
Richerd Desir-Jones, DT: He came to UF as a defensive tackle but was moved to the OL during his redshirt season.
Jabari Zuniga, DT: Under-sized (265) coming out of high school, he took a redshirt in 2015. Expected to compete for a backup role in 2016.
Andrew Ivie, DT: He is the younger brother of senior DT Joey Ivie. He redshirted in 2015 but is expected to compete for playing time at nose tackle in 2016.
Assessment: Only Jefferson was a strong contributor but the others in this class seem to be finding their niche. We’ll give it an incomplete.
Jachai Polite, DE: Southern Cal made a huge run at him late in the recruiting process but couldn’t flip Polite, who figures to either play strong side DE or move inside later in his UF career.
Antonneus Clayton, DE: He’s another speed rusher. A decision will have to be made whether to bulk him up to play DE or let him come off the edge at OLB.
Jordan Smith, DE: He’s known for his speed coming off the edge. If he can put on the weight he will see the field in 2016.
Assessment: Obviously the grade is incomplete but give Jim McElwain credit for addressing the need for speed off the edge with Clayton and Smith and a guy who move inside if he grows in Polite.
GATORS TUNE UP FOR VANDY BY SMASHING USF
After falling behind 3-0 in the top of the first, the #1-ranked Gators (41-8) fought back to take an 11-4 win over South Florida (21-27) at McKethan Stadium Tuesday night.
Florida rallied for two runs in the bottom of the second, then after falling behind 4-2 in the top of the sixth, they came back to tie it at 4-4. That set up the seventh when UF exploded for 6 runs with Deacon Liput driving in three with a triple to right center field.
Peter Alonso had an RBI double in the first, an RBI single in the sixth and another RBI single in the seventh as part of his 3-4 day at the plate.
Dane Dunning (4-2) picked up the win with 2-1/3 innings of 2-hit, scoreless relief. Next up for the Gators is #7 Vanderbilt Friday night.
Billy Donovan and the Oklahoma Thunder can win their Western Conference semifinal series with San Antonio at home after taking a 95-91 win over the Spurs Tuesday night behind 35 points by Michael Westbrook and 23 by Kevin Durant.
Dabo says Clemson won’t participate in the satellite camps phenomenon. His reasoning: "At the end of the day, if it's too inconvenient for a kid to come to Clemson, well he ain't coming for four years. I still believe in the old school model of teaching football and coaching a camp. That's the way we do it. We're going to coach football at Clemson and continue to do things the way we've done them."
Apparently, Houston, Memphis, UCF and Colorado State have been lobbying hard for the two spots if the Big 12 Conference elects to expand. Expansion is expected to be the #1 topic when the league’s presidents and athletic directors meet in Irving, Texas on May 31.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
With more than 30 games in the books, how many Major League Baseball games have you watched either in person or on television so far?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Every time I hear “Don’t Get Me Wrong” I go on a listening binge with the Pretenders. It happened today while I was driving to Publix. Since I can’t get them out of my head, here is their Live to Air concert.