Five Defensive Players with the Most to Prove

With five selections from the defensive side of the ball in the top three rounds of the NFL Draft, most teams would be in for a rebuilding season. All it means for the Florida defense is multiple open starting positions in the fall.

5. Linebacker Jon Bostic- The sophomore came into spring practice as the favorite to win the job as starting middle linebacker. The performance from redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins as the middle linebacker may not allow Bostic to start.

It's not that Bostic had a disappointing spring. Jenkins was just better. The 6-0, 220-pounder doesn't have prototypical size for a middle linebacker, but he hits as hard as any linebacker on the team.

Bostic has to keep his head up and fight for the job in fall practices. Florida linebackers coach D.J. Durkin wouldn't say any linebacker had a starting spot locked up, but Bostic didn't dominate and take hold of the position like many people expected.

With Brandon Hicks and A.J. Jones having experience as outside linebackers, it could be a fight for the middle linebacker spot between Jenkins and Bostic, with Bostic having some ground to make up.

4. Linebacker Lorenzo Edwards- This is the senior's final chance for playing time. He came in as a hyped Army All-American, only to make campus overweight and needing to reshape his body. When he made his playing weight, the starters at linebacker were already entrenched.

Talent was never a question for Edwards out of high school. When covering the 2007 Army All-American game with Bob Redman, the East team's defensive coordinator told us that if he could pick one player from the team's defense to start a college defense around, his choice would be Edwards. This defense also included ex-Tennessee Volunteers safety Eric Berry, North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin and Miami defensive lineman Allen Bailey.

In his time on campus, Edwards has been lost in the shuffle. This fall practice is his final chance to prove that he deserves playing time.

3. Defensive end William Green- The biggest question mark on the defense comes at the defensive end opposite of Justin Trattou. While all eyes are on Ronald Powell, who is now on campus in Gainesville, the freshman just being on campus means some upperclassmen need to step up this fall or they could be stuck in backup duty for their careers.

Green came to campus as a rail-thin project with elite speed off the edge, hovering around 210 pounds. Heading into his junior season, he weights 250 pounds. If Powell doesn't start at the spot opposite Trattou, it will likely be Green or senior Duke Lemmens. Both players need solid fall practices to ensure playing time, or else Powell could be the starter from the first snap of the first game.

2. Defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh- The redshirt senior saved the 2008 national championship team by playing seemingly every snap at nose tackle. The Gators were thin at the position to start the season, but Florida couldn't have won it all without his contributions.

Marsh was even on some NFL Draft boards heading into the 2009 season, but an ankle injury kept him out of fall practice before the season started. The injury lingered, and even though Marsh played in nine games, his production was hampered. He recorded only eight tackles on the season, but even more important than the statistics, Marsh wasn't the immovable nose tackle he served as in 2008.

Omar Hunter's emergence allowed Marsh to rest the ankle, but this fall Marsh will be fighting for his starting job back. Hunter is quicker as a nose tackle and is the better playmaker, but Marsh's 6-5, 288-pound frame is more difficult to move.

Hunter has the edge to start as the nose tackle, but Marsh has the talent to make a push.

1.Cornerbacks Moses Jenkins and Jeremy Brown- Jenkins began the spring as the starter, but by the end of the spring, Brown was the more impressive of the two. Junior Janoris Jenkins has one starting cornerback position already locked down, and the battle between Jenkins and Brown will decide the other.

Since Brown got to campus, the issue has been health. A bulging disk in his back kept him off the field in 2008 and 2009, but the spring of 2010 looks like it may have been what he needed. He was all over the field, just like he was as an early enrollee during the spring of 2008, before the back injuries began. That is when head coach Urban Meyer made the comment that Brown was further along than Janoris Jenkins.

This is Moses Jenkins' final season of eligibility. He has been a special teams demon since first stepping on campus, serving as a key cog in the kickoff coverage unit. His 6-2 frame gives him the height to defend the lob passes well, but he struggled in the spring to keep up with quicker receivers.

For Brown, this fall is about an injured player staying healthy. For Jenkins, it's about a senior taking advantage of his final opportunity. But neither has faced a set of practices as important as the ones they will experience this fall.

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