While a talent infusion at quarterback, running back, and receiver has come in a big way on offense, we find ourselves feeling pretty god about a trio of units on the squad that weren’t necessarily expected. Here is what we are thinking.
Like the offensive skill positions on offense, the Gators got a bit of a talent infusion at linebacker in the offseason. Unlike those positions, we weren’t thinking there would be an immediate impact, but that is likely what we will see in 2016.
While starters Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone will knowingly grab all the hotlines at linebacker, behind them was a big question mark heading into spring and fall of this year. A few things have changed that thinking.
Early enrollees sometimes have a huge advantage over those freshmen that don’t and one guy that took full advantage of it is David Reese. The Gators got a good one in the middle linebacker from Michigan and he’s a guy that is physically ready to play at this level. He’s smart and really studies the game.
The other two main additions also come from the 2016 class. Jeremiah Moon and Vosean Joseph both arrived on campus in June and have been highly impressive. Moon is long and lean. He will need to add some good weight, but comes from a high profile program and seems ready to play. Joseph is stockier and although playing outside right now, will likely grow into an inside linebacker. He comes to Florida with that south Florida swagger he gleaned from playing high school football in Miami.
We shouldn’t forget about redshirt frosh Rayshad Jackson as well. Another Miami native, Jackson bided his time on the bench a year ago and is poised to help in 2016.
The position was a big question mark at the start of the fall in terms of who will play behind the starters. They recently lost junior Matt Rolin who gave up football. There will certainly be a few growing pains in this group, but they should play better than expected this season and beyond.
We have talked about Stephens as a guy that may have more physical tools than Goolsby and Lewis. He is taller, he can run very well, he’s bigger overall, he just lacked a little bit of the aggressiveness needed to play inside when they ask the tight ends to play on the line of scrimmage.
Stephens has improved that part of his game and recently drawn accolades from McElwain about his overall play. He can be another nice weapon in an offense that seems to be gaining skill talent daily.
When they moved Duke Dawson away from the safety position because of the need at corner and when Keanu Neal left early for the NFL, the safety position was bound to take a hit. But, like the others listed above, some freshmen have come in and really taken a step forward.
The guy that has really helped with the numbers is freshman Jeawon Taylor who arrived in June from his high school in Alabama. Taylor is likely more athletic than most of us thought. He has nice size and he is intelligent and picking things up quickly.
You throw those two in with the trio of Marcus Maye, Nick Washington, and Marcell Harris who all have had a great fall practice, and you have a very nice and deep group heading into the September schedule.