Defensive Line Having Unusual Spring

The Gator defensive line was loaded with players at the tackle positions coming out of the BCS Title Game and none of those guys were seniors. Florida should have had a traffic jam during spring practice, but it's turned out to be pretty thin in the trenches.

Torrey Davis and John Brown are out of the picture. Brandon Antwine, Terron Sanders and Troy Epps are hurt and that has left the tackle position in particular rather depleted.

However, situations like this mean opportunity for others and in this case that means lots of reps for second year players Omar Hunter and Earl Okine. Those two plus third year sophomore Jaye Howard are stating their case for playing time behind Sanders and Lawrence Marsh. After a significant amount of full contact work on Saturday day D-Line Coach Dan McCarney assessed the unit and said he likes the effort he's getting.

"They better. That's what we've built over the year. You know four of the top eight or nine top aren't practicing and that means opportunities for other guys. You step on the field for us you're gonna play with passion and energy and physicalness and a high level of energy or you're not going to play."

McCarney said one guy who has come a long way in the last year is Howard.

"He's getting better. He got some playing time last season. He did a little bit for our program, and now it's time to step up and do a lot for our program. With Sanders out all it's done if give him a great opportunity. He and Okine are getting a lot of work and it's great for them both because they need every snap they can get."

Okine signed with the Gators out of Gainesville High School as a 6-6, 240-pound defensive end. Now he's an inch taller and about 35 or so pounds heavier and his future appears to be at tackle. McCarney said Okine will learn both, but his time at end is about over.

"He's mostly inside. He's 275 (pounds) now and about three weeks from 290. He's just growing before us. His future is inside all the way. He's got four years to go and he'll be an inside guy."

Omar Hunter came in last fall with a ton of hype but was overweight hurt his back and got more overweight. Hunter is healthy now and "down" to about 310 and McCarney is seeing progress as a result.

"Not bad. He's getting a little bit better. He and Earl it's time now. They've been redshirted. Okay, you didn't play. You stood on the side and watched one of the best defenses in college football play the game. It's time (for you) to start doing it like those guys did it with your name and your jersey. That's what we're hoping they'll do."

McCarney said he and Hunter have talked a lot since the talented lineman arrived on campus from Buford, Ga. He says he's told Hunter that has all the tools and has to put them to use.

"You've got talent. You're a strong guy. You're tough. You've got pride. But you stood around and watched and it's time to go play now. Hopefully Antwine and Epps will come back and they'll be a hundred percent, but what if they don't? You're going to have to play out there the first Saturday in September. You gotta help us win and you have to get ready for that."

Florida has not seen much so far from JC transfer Edwin Herbert. The Gators will welcome a top high school talent in Gary Brown this fall, but if this unit is close to completely healthy it'll be difficult for either of those two to see much action this fall.

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