With last season's grass already out of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, change is abound on the defensive front line. A change that has had much of Gator nation anxious to see what the new weapons can bring to the table.
The other end is where this writer was thoroughly let down as Darrell Lee led the line with 55 tackles, 4 sacks, and an amazing highlight reel. The problem was that his highlights were shown on April 24th after the names Robert Gallery and Shawn Andrews were announced as 1st round picks.
Replacing last year's bookends are a pair of 6'5 305 boys that in my opinion, will be more than to suffice for last year's ends.
Projected starters Steven Harris and Tree Morant both have the physical build to dominate in the Southeastern Conference, but as Tree told me after Spring practice this year, a majority of the DE's have been fine tuning their technique.
"My focal point has been my technique," Morant said. "My technique has really looked better as of late because of my improved footwork."
Though it should be taken with a grain of salt, the results have already started to show for the rising star who registered 2 sacks in this year's Orange and Blue game.
Moving inside, one word can surmise the DT position for those in Gator nation: Promise. The Gators don't lose a beat and return arguably one of last years biggest surprises, Marcus Thomas.
Big players make big plays and Thomas gave the Orange and Blue faithful a taste to come as he registered 9 tackles and a sack against FSU, and followed that with a heads up 7 tackle performance against Iowa and their celebrated offensive line.
Marcus Thomas on the field, courtesy of UF UAA.
It is of my opinion that Marcus Thomas will end up being just as valuable to the defense as star LB Channing Crowder.
Yet another star that will provide more punch to the line is Ray MacDonald. With 4 sacks and 54 tackles, Ray Mac should play an even bigger part in stopping the run this year.
A bigger issue that could hurt the front is depth. The stars will always be the stars but behind them is a crew of enigmas.
Kenny Parker and his 5 years have brought a total of 45 tackles, and a wealth of back and shoulder injuries.
Jarvis "Big Tex" Moss nursed a hernia injury early on in 2003 and was hampered much of the Spring by a recurring groin pull.
Joe Cohen, Brandon Daniel, Michael Hill, Jeremy Mincey and Derrick Harvey all will have a chance to make a name for themselves in 2004. I wouldn't mind seeing Mo Mitchell plugging up the trench in goal line scenarios either.
The Gator defense gave up an average of 153 yards a game against 8 2003 opponents whom they will face next year. Among other running backs that the front four will have to stave off include South Carolina back Demetrius Summers, Georgian Kregg Lumpkin, and Florida State's bunch.
By stuffing the run and getting to the QB, something 2003's line failed to do, the 2004 squad could just terrorize the Southeastern Conference.
Plenty of noise is being made about the question marks the Gator secondary has, but with the right amount of pressure it won't be as big an issue. Last year it was the other way around as suffocating coverage led to many coverage sacks (see Bobby McCray against LSU, 3 sacks).