Freshmen Stepping Up on D-Line

There was an increased speed to Dan McCarney's walk Monday. The coaching staff removed the helmet stripes for freshmen defensive linemen Sharriff Floyd and Dominique Easley, officially making them a part of the Florida team. McCarney was confident the two would provide depth at defensive tackle this fall, but their play in camp has already earned meaningful snaps.

"They're showing each day that they belong on the field and will help our defense this year," McCarney said. "I'm proud of them. They're physical guys that we we thought were two of the best players in the country last year. In the scrimmage and practices, they don't look one bit out of place. They look like they belong on the field this year."

Floyd and Easley had their stripes removed on Sunday night after the coaches evaluated film from Saturday morning's scrimmage. After struggling during the first few days of practice, the two caught their legs and looked like veterans against an experienced offensive line.

"They're earning time right now, not because guys are sitting out of practice," McCarney said. "They're learning it and playing fast. When you go against our offensive line and you can stand there and be a man, that's a real good sign."

The scrimmage gave McCarney an opportunity to see his players on the field in live action, not simply evaluating based on drills. He wouldn't speak about which players were held out because of injury, but the coaches will continue to play it safe.

While some veterans are held out, the young players get plenty of reps. McCarney expects to have depth if everyone is healthy, but Saturday's scrimmage didn't give him a chance to evaluate everyone at the position.

"(The scrimmage was) solid overall, not unbelievable or dominating," McCarney said. "I got a real good measure of evaluation. Anytime you go 130 snaps in a scrimmage, you get a real good evaluation and play a lot of guys. We get a better feel as each day goes by."

McCarney continues to look for depth at defensive end. Justin Trattou seems to be locked into one starting position, while William Green and Duke Lemmens are battling for the other.

The Gators are "not yet" where they need to be at defensive tackle, but the senior leadership of Trattou and Lemmens has already gone a long way.

"They have spark, energy and juice," McCarney said. "They have a great senior presence about them to lead this defense."

The Gators moved Lerentee McCray from linebacker to defensive end last season after he added weight. Defensive end has become a need position, so he is in a position to see the field, but he still hasn't made a push to see significant playing time.

"He hasn't made a move yet," McCarney said. "We're waiting for him to do that. He's fighting a little injury now, but he's got to take that next step."

The main component keeping McCarney from feeling confident in his defensive line is health. While he won't clarify players who are hurt, he does say none of the injuries are serious. The middle of training camp gives the coaches an opportunity to gauge the toughness of players who are fighting through injury and soreness.

Right now, McCarney is just waiting for more players to get healthy.

"The problem is I have a number of guys not practicing," McCarney said. "None of them are serious, but I don't have the depth I'd like right now."
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