FOOTBALL Personnel Analysis -- Linebackers

One of the main roster concerns of this and last year for the Florida Gators is the depth of the linebacker corps. Last year was a little different as the Gators didn't know what to expect out of their starters in the 3 linebacker positions and had no idea what the freshmen backups would bring. As the season progressed the freshmen ended up playing the bulk of the snaps and the upper classmen ended up playing back-up.

With two of those upper classmen graduated and the starters pretty much settled, the key for this linebacker unit is going to be staying healthy and finding quality depth. I certainly think, although shy on depth, this unit will be a strength of the team.

Channing Crowder - Last year's true freshman earned first team All-SEC honors, not as a freshman but on the regular team. He finished with over 100 tackles and missed two full games. He had surgery on his knee in mid-season and only missed one game. He sports a B average in class and he is the first guy to tutor the freshmen linebackers at the voluntary workouts. Put a cape on him and watch him fly. Alas, his Achilles heel is the fact that he enjoys life a little too much and gets into trouble away from the field. Although the current situation is a little overblown, he needs to know when to take the cape off. Let's talk about him on the field -- he is the absolute leader of the defense. He plays with reckless abandon and will surely be the human highlight film on defense during the first part of the season. I have seen him jump on the stairmaster during workouts with other players and continue through three different players taking their turn on the one next to him. All the meanwhile yelling at the players next to him to catch up. I think if you plugged an I.V. into him he could go on forever. This guy is certainly more than any Gator fan bargained for in recruiting. He was a 4 star recruit as a FB/LB, but I am not sure anyone knew what the Gators were getting when they landed this guy.

Earl Everett - Absolutely one of my favorite players on the team. Channing may be the best player on the entire team right now but I have told several people that Earl may be the best, maybe by the end of this season. He is a great kid that never gets into trouble. He is quiet and listens. He has instincts that you can't teach, and he can absolutely lower the boom at any time. The little gleam in the eyes of coaches comes after they describe that little moment of time when Earl gets a bead on the opposing ball carrier. Picture them talking about Earl with their hands up and one over the other as they clap and the top hand slides forward in a motion that leads the listener straight ahead. The word "Boom" comes out as they try and convey the cannon that Earl just shot out of to level his opponent. Also know that Earl will play a lot of nickel in situations - yes, folks, he is that fast. I say he will be better at the end of the season because in fact he was a Freshman All-SEC last year, and he still has much to learn. When he learns it all, watch out.

Travis Harris - Moved from defensive end last year, where he was a necessity, Travis is another guy that has the motor that never stops. He is a good student and the ultimate of team players. A team leader for sure, he has great size and will line up sometimes head up on the tight end at the Sam linebacker position. Just looking at him in this off-season he looks like he has trimmed down a little. If he can get down enough weight, he may have a future at the next level. He is another that likes to ride his teammates to make them better. I look for Harris to have a solid year and if defense focus too much on Crowder and Everett, he can have a breakout year.

Todd McCullough - A guy that was missed more than anyone can know when he had to have surgery on his shoulder. Todd was a solid force out there last year that was dearly missed. He is a heady player and is actually, along with Crowder, able to play any of the linebacker spots on the field. As a matter of fact, I look for him to be the top backup at all three spots. He has the size to play in the middle, and the relative speed to play either of the outside spots. More than any of that, he has the brain to do it. If Channing is suspended for any length of time due to the off the field issues, look for Todd to plug the middle in his absence. While he may not start most games, I believe his ability to play any spot will lend him to being in as many plays as the starters.

Taurean Charles - It seems like most Gator fans want this guy to be the breakthrough guy that hasn't really done anything yet. He has all the physical tools. He's big, probably 6-2 and 240 lbs. He's fast, relative to someone his height and weight. When Taurean takes the time to settle down and study and work his butt off to learn the defense, that'll be when fan's hopes will come true. We see glimpses as he flies down the field on kick coverage; we just need to see it all the time.

Richard Brown - A lot of talk on this guy. He is a relatively unknown walk-on that spent 8 years playing minor league baseball with the Yankees. He originally signed with Florida State as a safety in 1085, but due to maturity he has developed into a small linebacker's body. He did have ACL surgery last year, but seems to be running pretty well in the off-season workouts. I look for him to contribute this year, mainly due to his maturity. He will be limited on positions he can play due to size. He is more in the Will linebacker / safety mode.

Javier Estopinan - He is a bright kid that should start out at the middle linebacker spot on defense. Due to depth problems, he should start as Crowder's immediate backup. The ex-all state wrestler is aggressive and should prove to be a valuable and needed asset to the depth chart in his first season. He should play a large part of special teams.

Brandon Siler - He seems to be everyone's favorite poster child for an impact freshman linebacker due to the workout photos He has broad shoulders and a huge chest and sports some speed. He has to be at least 230lbs right now and he graduated high school with a B+ average. His smarts and physical ability combined with the lack of depth means he plays a lot this year.

Alik Scott - The local guy out of Gainesville's PK Yonge school has been an asset on special teams for two years. He could see time in the linebacker corps with significant injuries due to the fact that he has been around and is a smart player.

Bryan Royal - Another walk-on that showed a little in the Orange and Blue game in the spring, when the already depleted linebacker corps was split amongst the two teams. Bryan has played some on special teams and has participated in most of the summer workouts.

Alvin Butler - A red-shirt freshman that shows the want and desire to play as a walk-on. He definitely has the smarts to play the position as his nickname "1600" dictates. That would be the score he got on the SAT college entrance exam.


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