Predicting the Starters: Defensive Line

The inside of Florida's defensive line will be stout in 2010, but it's the defensive ends that have to prove themselves. The Gators lost both starting defensive ends from last season, and the emergence of players at the position will be key.

Defensive tackle may have some questions about who will start, but there is no doubt the depth will be plentiful. The position is so deep that two of Scout's top four defensive linemen from the class of 2010, Shariff Floyd and Dominique Easley, could be forced to third team duties.

The bodies at nose tackle include Omar Hunter, Lawrence Marsh, Brandon Antwine and Floyd. Hunter was forced into action as the starter in 2009 when Marsh's ankle injury forced him to play sparingly throughout the season. Hunter made only 17 tackles on the season, two for loss, but he was near impossible to push off the line. He ate up multiple blockers, allowing the linebackers to clean up the running backs.

Marsh will push to regain his starting position this season. He was the starting nose tackle when the Gators won the national championship in 2008 and served as the anchor of the defense line. Neither Marsh nor Hunter will provide a great pass rush, and this is one of the reasons Florida used their Joker package last season, using three defensive linemen with an end, Justin Trattou, lining up over center.

Antwine reportedly feels as good as he has during any point of his career at Florida. Floyd will provide the best pass rush from the nose tackle spot, but he will also push for playing time on running downs.

The competition for the three-technique defensive tackle includes Jaye Howard, Terron Sanders and Easley. Howard looks like the starter if he can have successful fall practices. He has gotten rave reviews over his offseason workouts, and many believe there is a good chance he could leave for the NFL at the conclusion of the 2010 season.

Sanders provides depth and experience, as he started alongside Marsh in 2008 on the team that won the national championship, but the senior isn't a pass rushing threat like Howard is. Easley could push for playing time, but his presence on the defensive line will be most important in 2011 when Marsh, Sanders and potentially Howard are gone. A move that could make sense is using Easley at defensive end in 2010, a position he played in high school and one the Gators need production from.

PREDICTED STARTING DEFENSIVE TACKLES: Omar Hunter and Jaye Howard

The Gators will be replacing 39 career sacks at defensive end, as Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham were each selected in the second round of the NFL Draft. With no proven playmaker off the edge, the search for a consistent pass rush from the outside has already begun.

Justin Trattou is a safe bet to start. He even started over Dunlap for part of the 2008 season because he was effective against the pass and run, instead of going after the quarterback for the sack as Dunlap often got in the habit. While Trattou is solid and won't be out of position, he only has seven sacks over his three-year career.

The playmaker could come from a freshman. Ronald Powell has created plenty of buzz from multiple sources since getting to campus. There are other options if the coaches choose to let Powell ease into college play, but if he proves he is the best defensive end available and can handle the position during fall practices, he will start. Reports out of the team are that the only thing that can stop Powell from being a high draft pick is himself, and it doesn't sound like that will be an issue.

Senior Duke Lemmens will provide depth. His motor kept him on the field early in his career, but his body has filled out and justifies keeping him on the field in crucial situations. William Green came to campus barely above 200 pounds, but he is now over 240. His lightning quick first step could force him onto the field during third downs.

PREDICTED STARTING DEFENSIVE ENDS: Justin Trattou and Ronald Powell


Fightin Gators Top Stories