FOOTBALL: Unable to hold the line

<img src= align=right>Potential yields results. Or at least that was the mantra the orange and blue were preaching prior to the start of 2004. The theory has held true for the Gators on both sides of the ball. The receivers have been the talk of Gainesville as Andre Caldwell, Chad Jackson and Dallas Baker have stepped into the limelight that Carlos Perez and Kelvin Kight occupied so vanilla-like last year.

Ciatrick Fason has been nothing short of spectacular, and Dee Webb and Terrance Holmes have been serviceable in the secondary. But what has happened to the potential of the front four?

The consensus thought amongst those that follow Gator football is that the defensive line has been sub par. Couple the poor play of the guys up front with the noticeable lack of depth and there is a glaring problem. A cold dish of crow for the same guy who once wrote, "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."

Crow withstanding, the 2004 squad has just terrorized Charlie Strong and Red Anderson's defensive scheme. The eight man rotation in the trenches has been disappointing across the board with a few exceptions here and there, but regardless the idea of promise turning into play making has faltered up front.

One area where the Gators have severely disappointed, and it was blatantly obvious on Saturday night against LSU, could be conditioning. UF consistently held out their first-team defensive line until the Tigers had reached midfield or even Gator territory. Watch Tuesday night on Sunshine Network for proof, if you can stomach watching the game again.

Michael Hill and Kenny Parker were sliced and diced consistently through the middle during every Tiger drive that started at the 20. Nothing against either of them, but we have two defensive tackles in Ray Macdonald and Marcus Thomas who are worlds better then them. Unless both of those studs developed acute asthma during the game, and I doubt they did, why keep out the heart of the front four until the opposing team has already rolled off a couple first downs. I know Ray Mac got dinged, but when he came back why hold back Thomas as well? If it is an issue of conditioning, then it needs to be solved quick. I doubt Darnell Dockett was held out of the second half of games until the opposing team was already on a roll.

Parker was a severe disappointment and apparently there is a search going on for Eric Holcombe. Anyone seen him lately? Maybe he's chilling with Jarvis Moss, Joe Cohen and Jimmy Hoffa. If found, please notify Coach Red Anderson. Clint McMillan is great for practicing during the summer and spring, but for what it's worth, I wouldn't want him in when you have the likes of Addai, Riggs, and very soon Danny Ware, Demetrius Summers and Leon Washington coming at the heart of your line.

Not liking to bank on negativity, there are sparse positives along the defensive line. Like I mentioned earlier, Ray Mac has avoided the "(red shirt) sophomore slump" and been consistent in both getting to the QB and disrupting the run. Jeremy Mincey has shown great speed in cutting off the toss sweep and has occasionally gotten the QB on the run. If not for him supposedly laying a WWF-quality drop kick on an LSU offensive player, according to the referee's, then we would be serviceable at the end position. And after watching Darrell Lee, serviceable is just dandy. Steven Harris has excelled against the run, and has shown in the past a good ability to register some sacks. Likewise, Tree Morant has been average applying QB pressure occasionally.

The point is, this defensive line will not get the job done in 2004 barring a visit from BALCO representatives. Perhaps Derrick Harvey, remember him-- high school All American and No. 3 rated DE by The Insiders and best friend of Derrick Williams, to get a shot at applying some pressure on the QB. The interjection of a true freshman midyear might motivate some upperclassmen to step up. Aside from that, Channing Crowder on the blitz was effective at covering up the lack of pressure and run stoppage the defensive line generated on Saturday night. Crowder (2), Siler (1) and Everett (.5) accounted for all but .5 (Thomas) of the Gators sack total last night.

Now if you can excuse me, the oven bell just rang. My humble pie is piping hot.

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