D-Line Looks to Replace Lost Sacks

Duke Lemmens hears it. The doubts about the Gators' ability to get pressure on the quarterback aren't a mystery to the Florida defensive line.

They haven't only heard it. They've let it push them.

It's what gets them out of bed for 6 a.m. summer workouts. It's what keeps them moving in the weight room while the rest of the student body is sound asleep.

Thirty-nine career sacks don't replace themselves. When Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham left for the NFL, the Florida defensive line knew it had its work cut out.

Duke Lemmens understood it early on, and he's doing his best to make sure his fellow defensive ends do, too.

"I hear it a lot," Lemmens said with a smirk. "I know what I can do, that's go as hard as I can. I've never put in as much work as I have this offseason. We know we've got shoes to fill."

Justin Trattou returns with the most career sacks of any player on the Florida defense. The number doesn't ease any fears. He has recorded seven sacks in three seasons.

Outside of Trattou, there is not one defensive end on the Florida roster that recorded a sack last season. A large reason for this is that Dunlap and Cunningham played almost every snap at defensive end last season, so there wasn't any need for depth.

It's now time for the upperclassmen to lead the younger players. Lemmens and Trattou know the drill of fall camp by now. The work and routine of preparing for the camp is over with, as the Gators were given time off from the end of the Gator Charity Challenge until they report for fall camp on August 4.

"I'm never afraid," Lemens said. "It's my fourth year, so they can't really throw anything I haven't seen. You never get too excited for two-a-days, but it's exciting that we have such a good team this year."

Lemmens' most important role could come in mentoring freshmen defensive end Ronald Powell. Florida is desperate for a consistent threat as a pass rusher, and Powell has the most raw talent out of anyone on the roster at the position. It will just be about harnessing it and preparing for the demands of a college football season.

Powell has already drawn rave reviews from upperclassmen. The freshmen defensive line class, also including Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd, Leon Orr and Lynden Trail, has caught the eye of seniors with their work ethic and professionalism.

"They're doing tremendous," defensive tackle Terron Sanders said of the freshmen. "They come out hard with their work ethic. You can see the determination in them. I see a lot of big things out of them this season."

The depth and talent at defensive tackle can only help the pass rush from the outside. Injuries ravished the defensive tackles last season, but Sanders, Lawrence Marsh and Brandon Antwine will all be healthy and ready to go for the start of fall camp. According to Lemmens, Marsh looks "better than ever."

"Those guys are a critical part of our whole deal," Lemmens said. "This could be as much depth as we've ever had on the defensive line."

The time and work the Gators put in working out over the summer isn't only paying dividends with their physiques. Going through the pain and time demands of workouts has the ability to bring a team closer.

This team has chemistry that ranks the highest Lemmens has seen in his four years. The freshmen have fit in from the start. There's something to be said about a team that has its back against the wall and feels the doubts from across the country. It has already brought this Florida team together, and the chemistry is easily noticeable.

"Ever year we've worked hard," Lemmens said, "and I feel like this year is as close as we've ever been."

If the defensive line produces like the players expect, they could find themselves with their third trip to the SEC Championship in four years.

"No doubt we can go all the way," Sanders said, "but our main goal is to get to Atlanta and we'll take care of the rest after that."
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