Florida Gators Defensive Line – 2010 vs. 2011

Part six in a series where The Bull Gator and I go over the Florida roster differences from this season to last and what to expect in 2011. To read past installments, click each position: quarterbacks, running backs and fullbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line.

2010: Gary Beemer – RSR, Terron Sanders – RSR, Duke Lemmens – SR, Justin Trattou – SR, Jaye Howard – RJR, William Green – JR, Omar Hunter – RSO, Lerentee McCray – RSO, Earl Okine – RSO, Kendric Johnson – RFR, Dominique Easley – FR, Shariff Floyd – FR, Leon Orr – FR, Ronald Powell – FR, Lynden Trail – FR
Preseason Rating: C
Postseason Rating: D
First and foremost, you know I had to include Gary Beemer in my list, even though typically we try to include only the scholarship players on the roster who have (or had) a significant chance of playing. But everybody loves Beemer!
When initially looking at the 2010 defensive line, I think a lot of fans and analysts would have given UF a preseason grade of B. But I personally did not have very high hopes for the 2010 defensive line…and they certainly didn’t disappoint me.
My reasons for doubt were mainly two-fold. First, half of the defensive linemen were players who had been at UF for a while, but had yet to really step up and become consistent producers. Players like Terron Sanders, Duke Lemmens, Justin Trattou, Jaye Howard and William Green could all fit this billing at the start of last season. This wasn’t necessarily their fault entirely, as some of the defensive linemen that we had in the years prior to 2010 were pretty darn good, so cracking the starting lineup was not an easy task. But nonetheless, leaning on these unproven commodities is something that I personally was not very comfortable doing.
My second concern was that we were putting the other half of our eggs in the “this freshman is going to be a beast” basket. Many were thinking that the fabulous threesome of Dominique Easley, Shariff Floyd and Ronald Powell would be all-world the second they walked onto Florida Field. Realistically, this just wasn’t possible, especially at the defensive lineman position, which is a position where few underclassmen excel.
At the end of the season, the defensive line stats were fairly abysmal. This unit accounted for only 12 sacks the entire season, two fumble recoveries (against USF and Vanderbilt) and one forced fumble (Vandy). Of the 12 sacks, only two came in what I like to term as “important games.” In the last four games of the season, this group registered only one sack and in the five losses they accounted for only two. Of the top 10 leading tacklers on the team, only three were defensive lineman (Trattou 57, Lemmens 43, and Howard 29). The only two defensive linemen that had double-digit tackles for loss were Trattou and Howard, both with 12 each.
In a nutshell, the defensive line was poor. Piss poor.
2011: Jaye Howard – RSR, William Green – SR, Omar Hunter – RJR, Lerentee McCray – RJR, Earl Okine – RJR, Kendric Johnson – RSO, Dominique Easley – SO, Shariff Floyd – SO, Leon Orr – RFR, Lynden Trail – RFR, Clay Burton – FR, Tevin Westbrook – FR
Preseason Rating: A
Wait a second One Eyed Willy, didn’t you just get finished calling the defensive line poor? Piss poor? And now you are giving them an A grade heading into the 2011 season?
That’s right kids…I am!
Although the lack of depth for the 2011 defensive line is certainly a concern – so much so that Will Muschamp seems to bring it up during every single interview he does – the guys that will play are going to be good. Scary good.
The middle of the line should be just about the best in the nation. With Howard leading the way, the likes of Floyd, Easley and Omar Hunter (and maybe Leon Orr as well) should have much more success than they did last year disrupting run plays and hassling the quarterback of the opposing team. With 12 more months of playing time under their belts, I especially expect Floyd and Easley to be leaps-and-bounds ahead of where they were to start the 2010 season. And if everything we have been hearing over the past few months is true, no one has been able to stop our defensive tackles from getting in the backfield. Let’s hope that trend continues.
The defensive end position will probably look better during the season mainly because opposing teams will have to key against the “big nasties” in the middle. Powell, who will technically play the Buck linebacker position, will line up a lot at defensive end and should be able to use his size and incredible speed to torment opposing QBs. If veterans like Green or Lerentee McCray or youngsters like Lynden Trail or Clay Burton can step up and be relied upon to play important minutes this season, they will round up an already impressive group of talent. Finally, don’t be surprised if some of the defensive tackles line up at the end position. Howard is one player in particularly who can play both positions and could be a force on the outside edge, especially during running situations.
In the end, I truly believe that the defense, and ultimately the 2011 team will live-and-die by the defensive line. If this unit is as good as I think (and hope) they can be, I truly believe this team can surprise a lot of people this year and make a run at the SEC Championship. If, on the other hand, this unit plays like it did last season, you may want to take the under 7.5 wins that Vegas just released!

Undrafted Gators Start To Sign Free Agent Deals

With the NFL back, all of those undrafted players are starting to receive phone calls and even offers from teams. The picture to the left is, of course, TBG favorite (we have a lot of those) Chas Henry. As of this piece being written, Henry had yet to be signed, but it is only a matter of time. The best punter to ever punt the ball in an organized game is sure to get a shot somewhere and even more sure to stick.
Among those picked up by teams during the first day of free agency were Duke Lemmens – Arizona Cardinals, Terron Sanders – Baltimore Ravens, and Emmanuel Moody – Buffalo Bills. Maybe Will Hill agreed to a deal with the Washington Redskins, maybe not.
There are still a number of former Florida players out there, including Henry, Carl Johnson, Lawrence Marsh, Carl Moore, and Justin Trattou. Odds are some of them will have already found a team by the time you read this.
(Photo: University of Florida)

One Eyed Observations: Florida Gators in the NFL Draft

One Eyed Willy answers questions regarding the biggest Florida happenings of the moment. This week’s edition is shorter than usual, but we have to give it up to Willy who did this from his phone while on vacation.

The Bull Gator: Which drafted Gator will have the best career?
One Eyed Willy: I think one would believe that even with all his troubles for the Gators in 2010, Mike Pouncey (or Pouncey #2 as I affectionately refer to him as) will have the best pro career. Especially if the Miami Dolphins move him back to guard, which I expect they would do. You don’t pick a center that high in the draft! And Pouncey #2 was a stud guard his first few years at UF so I think he will revert back to those days and try to forget about his “career” as a center.
TBG: Which one will fans be pulling for?
OEW: True Gator fans should be pulling for all four guys no matter what they did on and off the field, but the easy fan favorite of the bunch is Ahmad Black. Don’t need to delve into the history of Black at UF, but he was definitely the most likeable guy on the team these last two years and became not only a favorite during that time period, but maybe an all-time fan favorite. Given his size, I am still not sure that he can be an every down safety in the league, but he certainly has the heart and brains to do so. I often say that if we had 22 guys starting for us with the heart of Ahmad Black, we would be unbeatable!
TBG: Who has the toughest uphill battle?
OEW: Even though he was taken prior to Maurice Hurt, I think Black may have the toughest time making it in the league. Unfortunately you can’t teach size or speed and Black is lacking in both categories. That and I think Hurt is better than a 7th round pick but fell due to his love of the herb. To be honest, I did not research who will be on the roster ahead of these guys so this is just a guess based on the talent they each have shown at UF.
TBG: Of those not drafted, who has the best shot at making the NFL?
OEW: Two words……Chas Henry! Sorry Duke Lemmens.

(Photo: University of Florida)

Florida Gators 48 – Kentucky Wildcats 14

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Trey Burton  of the Florida Gators scores a touchdown as he is brought down by safety Winston Guy Jr.  of the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida. Florida defeated Kentucky 48-14 for head coach Urban Meyer
Florida beat Kentucky 48-14 on Saturday night.  But you could also say Trey Burton beat Kentucky 36-14.  Or that the Florida eights defeated the Kentucky eights by a score of 7-2.  Whichever way you look at it, the Gators beat the Wildcats by a good enough margin to get fans excited about the offense for at least a few days.
The world has now been introduced to Burton, who switched his jersey number before the game, got some sort of supernatural power out of the #8, and the proceeded to set a Gator record by crossing the goal line six times.  That’s one more than Tim Tebow’s previous school record.  Burton almost passed for a touchdown as well, but Omarius Hines mysteriously tripped on his way down the field.
Or was it all that mysterious?  The game saw nine touchdowns.  All nine were scored by players wearing the #8 on their jerseys.  Hines wears #82.  If he had kept his balance, he would have caught it from a #8, but clearly that wasn’t good enough for the football gods.  They had made their decision on exactly who could score TDs earlier that night and it just wasn’t in the cards for Hines.
Burton’s final stat line was something of legend.  10 total carries and receptions, six touchdowns, and that 42-yard completion to Hines for good measure.  His five rushing touchdowns came on only five carries, almost like you were controlling him in a video game trying to prove you could score on each and every carry.  Have to believe the Gators have a good red zone option for the next three or four seasons.
And Burton wasn’t the only bright spot.  John Brantley finally broke the 200-yard passing barrier and ended the night with 248.  Jeff Demps proved that maybe 26 carries in one game isn’t the best way to use him.  Emmanuel Moody looked like he could be the power runner.  Carl Moore was great and could be becoming the go-to receiver.  And Andre Debose finally got touches, something fans have been desperately waiting for.
On the defensive side of the ball, Duke Lemmens and Justin Trattou continued to overachieve.  Jaye Howard is proving to many that he could be the best player along the line.  There’s not enough to say about Jon Bostic.  And Jeremy Brown made sure the #8 was well represented on the defensive side of the ball as well.
It was a definite step forward for the Gators.  After three games there were plenty of question marks and there still are, but it’s a step.  A step right toward the #1 team in the nation and Alabama.  One that brings along a renewed hope heading into the next game.  The defense continued to impress and the offense seemed to stabilize.  Hopefully it wasn’t an aberration and was what will become more of the norm.
Florida did a lot right against Kentucky and could have some carried over momentum heading into that matchup with the Crimson Tide.  The first quarter of the regular season is over and the Gators are 4-0.  Now Florida heads to the proving ground.  Bama, LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia.  There’s still a long road ahead, but the victory over the Wildcats was reflective of what a top 10 team should be doing.  Again, a step forward.

Morning Reading: The Impact of Joshua Shaw’s Commitment

Great news came Florida’s way on Tuesday as Rivals100 cornerback Joshua Shaw committed to the Gators.  At first glance, Shaw is a big pickup who is rated as the nation’s 3rd-best corner and 23rd overall prospect.  But then again, don’t the Gators pull a good number of guys ranked that high every year?  Why yes they do.  In fact, in each of the four classes from 2006 to 2009, Florida signed exactly three players ranked in the top 23 each year (they have two committed at the moment for 2010).  So while Shaw is a big get for the Gators, this has become commonplace.  But there’s something more important about the commitment of this particular player.  He’s from California.
Look back at the recruiting classes that have come into Florida during Urban Meyer’s tenure and you find a very short list of signees from California.  If you remove junior college transfers (which you really have to because they come from anywhere and everywhere without as much geographical loyalty as those straight from high school), there are only two.  The first, Josh Portis, can probably be removed from that list as well.  Yes, he came from California to Florida, but he was also committed to Utah and Meyer before the coach made the move to the Gators.  So Portis was really following the coach he had already committed to when he was closer to his home state.  The other is defensive end Duke Lemmens.  Lemmens was also high on Cal, Oregon, and Texas A&M, but favored the Gators very early on in the process.
With Shaw though, you have a player on a larger scale.  One that took official visits to LSU, Ohio State, and Notre Dame.  One that thought as a young kid he wanted to leave the state when it came to college, but was impressed with the aura that is USC.  One that in the end bit the bullet and decided to become a Gator.
Florida has lost out on a number of players from the state of California over the years while the Trojans seem to pull off the reverse feat much easier.  Keith Rivers left the Sunshine State to become a star at USC.  Most recently, Frankie Telfort made the trek as well.  The Gators only win was a transfer (Emmanuel Moody).  So although Shaw was truly looking nationally, pulling him out of California is still a big accomplishment.  And Shaw has hinted there could be more coming.  If more is Ronald Powell, Florida fans everywhere will be ecstatic.