Ronald Powell the Latest to Declare for 2014 NFL Draft; DE/LB to Leave Florida Early

Ronald Powell has become the latest underclassman to declare his intentions to leave Florida early and enter the 2014 NFL Draft. The hybrid defensive end/linebacker had one season of eligibility remaining.

Ronald Powell, Florida Gators

The top recruit in the nation coming out of high school, much was expected of Powell before he ever stepped foot on campus. He was the second top prospect to sign with the Gators under former head coach Urban Meyer and if his impact were to even be close to that of the first–Percy Harvin–Florida fans were in for a treat.

Powell struggled early, but mostly due to those high expectations. It’s not that he underperformed during his freshman season; it’s that so much more was expected out of him. Will Muschamp’s arrival as the new Florida head coach may have been a good thing for Powell in the long run. While it did take him some time to get used to his role as a “buck” linebacker, Powell started to come on strong during the season half of the 2011 season. Seven of his nine tackles for loss and four of his six sacks came in the final six games of the season.

Powell wouldn’t get a chance to build on his strong end to the 2011 season as his 2012 season was over before it began. He tore his ACL during the Orange & Blue Debut, putting him on the shelf for all of 2012.

When the 2013 season came around, Powell was ready to contribute again. While he was back to full strength, he also greatly benefited by the play of defensive lineman Dominique Easley and fellow buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. The emergence of Fowler allowed Powell to move between buck and more of a traditional linebacker role throughout the season.

Powell played well enough throughout the season that this announcement isn’t much of a surprise, but it’s also widely believed he would benefit greatly from one final year of development. However, after suffering the type of injury he did, it’s understandable that he would leave now and not risk getting hurt at the college level again. Early predictions have Powell falling somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft.

While I wish Powell all the luck in the world, the one thing I would have really wished for him during his time at Florida was more wins. Due to the injury forcing him to miss the 11-2 2012 season, Powell played for the Gators during seasons in which they finished 8-5, 7-6 and 4-8.

Florida Gators Recruiting: Gerald Willis III Commits to Gators; DE Chooses Florida Over LSU

Like his brother Landon Collins before him, Gerald Willis III will leave the state of Louisiana to play college football elsewhere. Down to Florida and LSU, the star defensive end committed to the Gators on Thursday during the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Football Game.

Gerald Willis III, Florida Gators

Willis was thought to be headed to LSU, but became the second of April Justin’s sons to not commit to the Tigers. While her disappointment was evident this time around as well, she had a calm approach to the entire situation. On the positive side of things for Justin, that’s now two sons with scholarships to pursue both academics and athletics at the collegiate level. Not too bad of a deal if you ask me.

Willis mentioned consistent recruiting and defensive fit as two of his main reasons for choosing Florida, but also had possibly the quote of the recruiting cycle:

“Plus they got swag man, it’s the Gators,” said Willis.

I see a t-shirt in the works.

The defensive end said the Gators’ recent 4-8 season was not a deterent during the process. Willis actually felt that meant he could come in a help immediately. He hopes to play both inside and outside on the defensive line, much like former Florida stars Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd.

Willis receives five stars from both 247 and Scout and four from ESPN and Rivals. The four services place him between No. 3 and No. 5 at his position and all have him among their top 50 recruits across the nation.

Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd Hope To Cause Confusion For Opposing Offensive Lines

Big things were expected when the Florida Gators signed the nation’s top two defensive tackles as part of the 2010 recruiting class. Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd were going to own the middle of the line for years, creating one of the greatest duos to ever play at the University of Florida. The two have been far from disappointments, but things have definitely changed.

During the 2011 season, Floyd spent most of his time lined up at defensive end while Easley manned the middle. There are a few reasons for it – integrating the 3-4 defense and injuries – but Floyd started the final 11 games at DE.

This season, that will flip. Easley will technically start at end while Floyd will go back to his natural position of defensive tackle. But don’t even expect that to last long.

In an attempt to disrupt opposing offensive lines, the Gators will roll out multiple defensive fronts. Easley may start at end with Floyd at tackle, but that could switch. We could also see both at end or both in the middle. With multiple defensive sets, you’ll see the two in multiple places on the field. Cue chaos, but the good kind for Florida.

The linebackers are among those excited about the constant switching we’ll see from Easley and Floyd. With offensive lines focusing and where the big men went and who needs to get to them off the snap, the linebackers could see lanes open up and find themselves in the backfield at an alarming rate.

2012 could be a make-or-break season for the vaunted 2010 recruiting class. Among them are Easley and Floyd, key components to the Gators’ success.

2013 Football Recruiting: Caleb Brantley And The Varying Degrees Of A Commitment

On Monday, we learned that 2013 defensive tackle Caleb Brantley had adjusted the level of his commitment to the Florida Gators. The four-star DT from Crescent City, FL (Crescent City) stated via Facebook that he was now a soft verbal commitment to Florida, dropping his status down from solid verbal commitment. Brantley maintains he is still committed to the Gators and head coach Will Muschamp understands where the defensive tackle stands, but that he may have jumped into his commitment too early.

In addition to wanting to take visits to other schools, Brantley is concerned about the depth chart at defensive tackle. He seems like someone that wants to play immediately and were Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd to return for their senior seasons, the guess is Brantley wants to know what his role would be. He doesn’t want to spend his first season watching from the sidelines, but instead wants to learn on the job.

This development is hardly shocking and could be viewed as just another example of the way the recruiting world turns. Until a player signs his letter of intent, he is nothing more than verbally committed to a school. Whether we want to clarify that verbal commitment as solid or soft, it’s still nothing more than a recruit claiming which school tops his list in many cases. Brantley may still end up signing with the Gators – Florida still holds the lead – but he may sign elsewhere as well. At the moment, he’s being honest in saying that he may have jumped the gun and would like to learn a little more before he makes a final decision.

Brantley remains committed for now and has mentioned it would take a lot for that to change, but he does want to visit other schools and make an informed decision. Among those schools are Alabama, Florida State and USC.

Drafting The Florida Gators To Go Head-To-Head Against…The Florida Gators

The football offseason brings about boredom and plenty of it. It has forced us at The Bull Gator to come up with ways to occupy our time whether they are fun or trivial exercises in futility. Some examples include past attempts at coming up with the best Florida Gators of all-time at each jersey number and a draft consisting of only players available from the schools we have attended. This is another one of those exercises.

One Eyed Willy and I conducted a draft where we each attempted to fill a starting roster made up of all Gators. The rules were simple: 1) you need to fill each position with a player that could realistically line up at that position, and 2) your only real wildcards are going with a fullback or a third wide receiver and playing either a 4-3 defense or a 3-4.

Once we were done, we gave the teams to Evandagator and he let us know which team he thought would win if they went head-to-head. We didn’t tell him which team belonged to which one of us, so he could give his unbiased opinion (we aren’t completely sure which one of us he likes more just yet). We also posted the teams on Alligator Alley (one of the message boards on Inside The Gators) to see what they thought as well.

First up, the teams:

*The numbers in parenthesis indicate the overall pick the player was selected. Some players don’t have numbers next to their names because once we realized we only had positional openings left where we wouldn’t be competing for players, we each filled our rosters in one lump selection.

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Gators Defensive Tackle Nick Alajajian Has Wrist Surgery

Senior Nick Alajajian underwent wrist surgery on Tuesday. The Florida Gators defensive tackle had been having trouble with his wrist throughout spring practice. With the Orange and Blue Debut having come and gone, now was the perfect time for Alajajian to have the surgery and have the time to get healthy for fall practice.

Already a senior, Alajajian’s career at Florida seems to have gone by almost too quickly. Having spent his first three years as a reserve offensive lineman, Alajajian made the switch to defensive tackle in preparation for the 2012 season.

He has appeared in 32 games and got his first start in the Gator Bowl following the conclusion of the 2011 season. Although Alajajian will provide depth at DT, his path to significant playing time won’t be any easier. He shares the position with Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley, Omar Hunter, Leon Orr and Damien Jacobs. JaFar Mann and Dante Phillips will join the Gators in the fall.

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Josh Shaw And Lynden Trail Transfer From Florida: Gators’ Depth Takes Another Hit

You know what Florida really needed? More players transferring. That’s a great way to build depth.

Those would be the extremely sarcastic words of Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army. It’s also what nearly every fan of the Florida Gators thought to themselves when they head the news on Tuesday that defensive back Josh Shaw and defensive end Lynden Trail would transfer.

The Gators’ 2010 recruiting class was one of legend. Ronald Powell, Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley topped the list of star recruits who signed with Florida and then head coach Urban Meyer. Nearly two full seasons later and that 27-man class has lost nine of its members. Transfers are expected when you lose a coach and his staff; one-third may be more than even a worst-case scenario (and, oh yeah, some think Mack Brown and/or Tyler Murphy may not be far behind). Did going 14-11 over the last two seasons have something to do with it? It’s possible, but in the case of Shaw and Trail, it probably had more to due with playing time.

Shaw was one of the nation’s best coming out of high school. The Palmdale, CA cornerback was rated the no. 28 player in the country by Rivals.com. Moved around the defensive backfield, Shaw never found a home and never was able to find consistency in his play. Despite injuries in the secondary, Shaw wasn’t able to take command of a position during practice and playing time was limited in 2011. Rumors of his impending transfer have been swirling for nearly a year now. At first glance, Shaw may not appear to be a immediate loss, but how many times have we heard little from a player early in his career, only to watch him grow into an important part of the team in later years?

Trail – and Booker T. Washington teammate Quinton Dunbar - also joined the Gators as part of the 2010 class. The nation’s no. 7 weakside defensive end in high school, Trail was a tall defender almost in the mold of Jarvis Moss. His path to playing time appeared to be a longer one and, in the end, he wasn’t willing to wait.

With depth continuing to take hit after hit, 2012 is shaping up to be a building year. It doesn’t help that rumors continue regarding additional transfers. Keep your fingers crossed for a growing 2012 recruiting class and a stop to a shrinking roster. We may be in one of those dreaded “things have to appear worse, before they get better” times. Let’s hope it all ends quickly.

Preview: Florida Gators vs. Auburn Tigers – Saturday, October 15, 2011 – 7:00pm

The quick look came earlier this week; now to the full preview. Everything below has and will be discussed leading up to Saturday’s game against Auburn, but there is one thing Florida needs to do: just win. We’ve reached must-win status at game seven. The Gators need to learn from the losses and improve in the areas of concern right now. The second half of the season starts now and 4-2 must become 5-2.


The Facts

Opponent: Auburn Tigers
When: Saturday, October 15, 2011 – 7:00pm
Where: Auburn, AL
Television/Radio: ESPN, ESPN3.com, GRN, Sirius 91, XM 91
Records: Florida: 4-2 (2-2), Auburn: 4-2 (2-1)
Point Spread: Florida -2
Over/Under: 49.5
Betting Score That Would Calculate To: Florida 26-24
Scoring Offenses: Florida: 30.3, Auburn: 27.8
Scoring Defenses: Florida: 19.2; Auburn: 29.2
Gators’ Win Factor (See Here): TBG: 51, OEW: 49

Learn About Auburn

1. Auburn was originally chartered in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College. Doesn’t really have much of a ring to it, does it?
2. Auburn offered the nation’s first interior architecture design degree.
3. The school has a fully FAA certified Air Agency – the Auburn University Aviation Department.
4. Sure the Tigers are the defending national champions, but swimming and diving is where it’s at. The men’s and women’s squads have combined for 13 titles.
5. As you know, Gene Chizik played football at Florida. As you may not have known, he began his career as an assistant at Seminole High School. Don’t get confused though, that’s not the same Seminole Gators’ wide receiver Andre Debose went to.

When the Gators Have the Ball

When the Gators have the ball we at least know that the Gators will have the ball. What we don’t know is exactly which one of the Gators will have the ball. We do know that John Brantley is out until at least the Georgia game (some conspiracy theorists seem to think he’ll miss more time than that), so no. 12 won’t have it. We also know that both Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel are being prepared. What we don’t know is the exact combination we are expected to see. Odds are in favor of both playing along with a little Trey Burton thrown in there, without Burton actually throwing the ball more than once or possibly twice. And the “who will have the ball?” line of questioning doesn’t end there.

At running back there’s a similar situation that is there for entirely different reasons. Chris Rainey will get the majority of carries again as he looks to get back on track after a disappointing outing against Alabama and a subpar one against LSU. Jeff Demps, we all hope, will eventually return to his normal self and bring back the threat of world-class speed in pads. And Mike Gillislee has earned carries and should become a change of pace to the speedsters over the last half of the season. Not that Gillislee doesn’t have a nice burst of his own, but Charlie Weis may look to use him between the tackles against Auburn to give the Florida offense another dynamic to move the ball.

There you have it: a three-headed pass game and a three-headed run game. For the run game, it’s a positive – assuming the offensive line, well, you know. For the pass game, it’s a riddle of sorts. Brissett and Driskel have had a rough go of it this season; in part due to inexperience and in part thanks for the Alabama and LSU defenses. They will need all the time they can get against Auburn. Still in the learning mode, both need the offensive line to step up every aspect of line play. They need time to be able to make decisions without having to worry about avoiding a pass rush. Because of this, and the need for an explosive run game to return, the offensive line continues to be the most important unit on the team.

For those that watch football for the big play or the huge hit, there’s a sigh associated with hearing about offensive line play, but it’s a definite truth. The last two weeks have been rough for the Gators’ offensive line. It hasn’t been any easier for the defensive line, but we’ll get into that in a second. The offensive line hasn’t allowed the run game to develop and hasn’t given the young quarterbacks a chance to survey more than their first option, if they even have time to do that. The remainder of the season lies on the shoulders of the offensive line. That’s a lot of pressure, but there should be. Along that line is experience, talent and potential. The Gators have not used any of those three things to their favor over the last two weeks. In order to beat Auburn, they’ll have to bring them all together…FOR 60 MINUTES!

There should be a section in there about the wide receivers and the tight ends, but enough has been said at this point. The line needs to give the quarterbacks the chance to get through plays and the QBs have to deliver before we focus on the pass catchers yet again.

When the Tigers Have the Ball

Now for that other line – the defensive line. They’ll be named individually because they’re being called out: Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd, Jaye Howard, Omar Hunter and Ronald Powell. There are other names that could be thrown in there and Powell could also be taken out since he is technically occupying the buck position, but those five are the key to pressuring opposing quarterbacks and disrupting running plays in the backfield. They’ve done little of either since the win over Kentucky. Did we mention that among that group, there are four five-star rankings and a fifth-year senior? You already knew that, but more importantly the players know it too. They’re just as frustrated as the coaches and Gators’ fans are. They don’t want to underachieve. They want to be great in the orange and blue. If the offensive line is unit of importance number one, then the defensive line is number two.

And then there’s that whole tackling thing. Practice, coaching, a review of the fundamentals, film review and, yes, a lot of yelling needs to occur. This site counts Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins among its favorites on the roster. Michael Taylor is about the take the top linebacker spot on that list. He’s one more game away from taking actual minutes away from one of those two as well and rightfully so. Taylor is the bright spot on a unit that was invisible in 2010 and is quickly disappearing in 2011. It’s only a matter of time before a change is made on the field and off of it. D.J. Durkin doesn’t seem to be getting through to his players. Either that or he is but is just being completely ignored when games start. Guess is it’s the former.

This is another game for the secondary in which they’ll be facing an average quarterback. Kiehl Frazier is used often, but he rarely throws the ball, so the focus is on Barrett Trotter. Trotter’s efficiency rating has decreased progressively over the course of the season and he hasn’t made it through a game interception-free since the opener against Utah State. The secondary may not have much to worry about in the pass game, but they have to be prepared to help in the run game. Auburn is another team that pounds the ball at opposing defenses. The Tigers’ top four rushers all average between 5.2 and 5.5 yards per carry. If tackling from the front seven is an issue again, the Gators’ defensive backs must come up with meet the running backs and not allow those extra yards.

Special Teams

The Gators need a special teams spark. Whether that is a blocked kick or a Debose kickoff return, Florida needs a momentum shifter. The defense isn’t cause turnovers, so the special teams may need to provide that spark. A big special teams play can silence a crowd in a mere second. These previews usually only mention Will Muschamp and Weis when discussing coaches, but this will be the second time Durkin’s name has come up. The assistant needs his unit to come through.

Outcome

The Gators can’t drop three in a row. It’s really as simple as that. The game won’t be, but the outcome needs to be. Florida needs to believe they have the talent to compete in the SEC this year and not wait for the future to come. The Gators are still alive in the chase for the East, but a loss to the Tigers almost assuredly knocks them out. Auburn is a team Florida can beat, but it has also become a team the Gators must beat.

Defense: LSU Tigers 41 – Florida Gators 11

First thoughts here. Offense here.


Once again, the run game did in the Gators. LSU decided early it would pound the rock against Florida and did so to the tune of 49 times for 238 yards and three touchdowns. It wasn’t as explosive as what Alabama did to the Gators, but it was effective time and time again.

Spencer Ware led the way for the Tigers with 109 yards on 24 carries. His long of the day was only 18 yards, but he was able to consistently gain yards and make would-be tacklers look ridiculous. When relieved by Alfred Blue, it was much of the same. Neither went down at first contact and both were able to drag defenders for additional yards. That could be a testament to their ability as power runners, but more often than not it was due to a glaring problem in the Gators’ defense – tackling.

For the second-straight game, Florida defenders weren’t able to make tackles. They would meet Ware or Blue, attempt to stand them up, and ultimately get run over. This isn’t a coaching problem, it’s a fundamentals problem. These players know how to tackle, but aren’t using proper technique or are just getting overpowered. That can’t happen. Far too often, Matt Elam was coming up to help make a stop because the LSU running backs were bowling over the defender that got to them first. Amazingly, Jon Bostic had 13 tackles, Sharrif Floyd had 11, Dominique Easley had nine, and Jelani Jenkins added eight. Elam was second on the team with 12, but it seemed like his total was closer to 30 or 40. In a game dominated by the run, Bostic and Jenkins need step up. They two may have totaled 21 tackles, but how many ended with Ware or Blue falling forward? The answer is most of them.

A quick side note related to linebacker talk: Michael Taylor is going to be one heck of a defender. He should be on the field more. That is all.

In the passing game, Jarrett Lee didn’t end up being a hero, but only because LSU didn’t ask him to be. Lee only attempted 10 passes, but completed seven for 154 yards. He looked comfortable dropping back when he needed to and if asked to do more, could have had much better numbers. Even Jordan Jefferson got in on the passing action including a…gasp…jump pass! I can’t blame Les Miles for giving the Gators a taste of their own medicine, but I also hope next year in Gainesville Will Muschamp goes for it on every fourth down and calls a fake on every kick and punt.

If there was a glaring weakness in the passing game it was allowing the big gain. Rueben Randle totaled 127 yards on four catches including a touchdown during which he just ran by Cody Riggs. Russell Shepard averaged 20.5 yards on two catches. And even though Deangelo Peterson and Kadron Boone only had one catch each, they both went for over 20 yards. The secondary gave too much room to LSU’s receivers and was beaten deep on more than one occasion. During one-on-one coverage situations, Gators’ defenders looked lost being either too focused on the quarterback or too focused on the receiver, but never a good balance of both. Bostic had a sure interception that he never turned around to catch. He was covering the receiver perfectly on the play, but had he been aware of the ball, it would have been a definite turnover.

Speaking of turnovers, the Gators were unable to force any for the second-straight game. In each of the last two matchups, there were points late when Florida wasn’t that far out of it. Against Alabama, the Gators entered the fourth quarter down 24-10, but the defense was unable to force a turnover or stop the Tide in the fourth and the game got out of hand. Against LSU, it was much of the same. Down 27-11 entering the fourth, Florida had a chance to make a move. Again the defense was unable to stop the Tigers and the game got more out of hand than it had already been.

The defense screams potential and Muschamp probably screams a lot more at them. There is experienced talent and inexperienced talent as well. Against elite opponents, that talent has been on hold. Florida clearly has a lot to learn and improve upon before the program returns to that level, but what’s frustrating is what’s holding them back: a lack of pressure, tackling problems, and coverage mishaps. Can they be fixed? We don’t know, but the SEC schedule doesn’t stop to give the Gators time to do so. A week off after Auburn will be welcome, but then it’s right back to work.

Up next: special teams.

Dominique Easley Story Too Strange To Be True?

This story about Florida defensive lineman Dominique Easley is too weird to have really happened. Or is it strange enough that it could actually have some truth to it?

Former Alabama player Reggie Myles claims to have been attacked outside of The Swamp after the Tide’s 38-10 win over the Gators on Saturday night. Myles claims his attacker fled the scene, but dropped his cell phone. That cell phone was then asked to be returned by…here we go…Easley’s parents.

What really happened is anyone’s guess. Was Easley really the attacker? Was the publicly intoxicated Myles even attacked? WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN???

The link to the original article that appeared on the Tuscaloosa News’ website now goes to a page that states “Article no longer available.” Take what you want from that. This could be one of those stories that pops up repeatedly throughout the week with little or no proof associated with it whatsoever.