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!

Terron Sanders Works Hard To Make It In The NFL

When the class you‘re a part of also includes Riley Cooper, Jermaine Cunningham, Marcus Gilbert, Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes, and some guy named Tim Tebow, it’s easy to get lost among the stars. Terron Sanders was a member of one of the greatest recruiting classes of all time, but much may have not been expected of him.

Rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals, Sanders was hardly untalented, but those names above overshadowed many and injuries didn’t help his case. Sanders played on one game during his senior year of high school and followed that up with a number of injuries – some serious – during his time at Florida. It wasn’t easy going for the defensive tackle, but he was able to appear in 43 games for the Gators and played well when healthy.
NFL scouts may not have thought he played well enough to be drafted though, but that’s not the only path to the top league. Sanders was signed by the Baltimore Ravens and is currently working to make their roster. It will be a tough road for the former Gator, but one he’s taking and not giving up on.

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)

Game Preview: Florida Gators vs. Georgia Bulldogs – 10/31 – 3:30

Heading into the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, let’s look at the positives, shall we.  Florida is behind only Alabama and Auburn in the SEC for total points scored (and the Gators have played one game less).  Each other SEC East team already has at least two losses.  And the Gators have won 12 straight against conference opponents.  They used to say something to the effect of the first goal being to get to Atlanta, and the rest will sort itself out.  There are only two teams that can prevent Florida from getting to Atlanta.  One is South Carolina (assuming Florida losses two SEC games, one of which would have to be to the Gamecocks, while South Carolina wins out) and the other (which needs the same scenario) is the Gators’ opponent this weekend – Georgia.
Here are 10 things about Saturday’s matchup…
1. The Okefenokee Oar.  A paddle made from a piece of a 1,000-year-old cypress found in a swamp on the border between Florida and Georgia.  You can’t make this stuff up.  Beginning this year, the Gators and Bulldogs are battling for an oar.  A 1,000-year-old oar that most assuredly has the powers of black magic cursed into it by the swamp’s inhabitants, but still an oar.  No one said rivalry trophies had to be gloriously bronzed cups with victors engraved on the side.  An oar will do just fine.
2. Scoring from outside of the red zone.  Can’t remember where we read this idea, but it’s a simple one really.  If you can’t score from inside of the 20-yard line, just score from outside of it.  The red zone is kryptonite to the Gators so bring back the big play.  If your team isn’t good at something, don’t do it.  Stay out of the red zone.  It’s a dangerous place where turnovers and field goals rule.  Score on the long ball, the big run.
3. Random Omarius Hines fact: Halloweening as the invisible man, or more accurately wide receiver #82.  (In case you’re wondering [which we’re sure you weren’t] why Hines keeps appearing at the #3 position, it has something to do with our push for him to be the #3 WR.)
4. Emmanuel Moody’s first red zone carry.  Despite the attempt to score from outside the 20 at all times, Florida will find itself in a situation or two from within the red zone.  Maybe due to a nice punt return or a Joe Cox blunder.  This means we’ll get a chance to witness a mythical beast only heard of in lore.  A Moody red zone carry.  You heard it here first.  It will happen against Georgia.  (In no way can we possibly guarantee that.)
5. Can a team continue to win with such poor pass distribution?  Alabama, Cincinnati, Iowa, Texas.  All are undefeated.  All have exactly six pass catchers with 10 or more receptions.  Florida has two.  Now of course the Gators hold the advantage of being the #1 team in the nation so this isn’t really a complaint, but it’s getting to the point in the season that it’s somewhat disturbing someone else hasn’t stepped up.  Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez are getting theirs, but Florida needs other options.  Let’s rephrase that, Florida needs other reliable options.
6. Whatever it is, step up from the offensive line.  It may be execution.  It may be schemes.  It may be trying to give Tim Tebow more of a challenge.  It no longer matter.  Step up and deliver the pancakes.  Block aggressively.  Protect the quarterback.  Give the running backs holes.  Grade the road.  Get past the criticism and play with some passion.  One slip up can result in a trip to Orlando or Tampa.  Both lovely places where many of us TBGers frequent, but not where anyone truly wants to go bowling.
7. The defensive tackles may just be the key.  Terron Sanders is quietly putting together one hell of a season.  He is a force in the middle and a catalyst to the defensive ends getting to opposing quarterbacks.  This week, he may welcome back DT-mates Jaye Howard and Lawrence Marsh.  A heavy rotation of those three and Omar Hunter could spell danger for a Georgia run game that is already shaky.  Sigh, sometimes we daydream about this unit with John Brown and Torrey Davis.
8. Carlos Dunlap is a man.  After a sacktastic performance against Mississippi State, Dunlap earned the right to be removed from this spot.  However, we’ve kept him here to praise #8 from coming out of the witness relocation program and being his dominant self.  But one game does not make a true man.  True man made over many moons.  Keep bringing it Carlos.  Think of this as your audition for that silly league that plays games on Sundays if you have to.
9. The kicking competition is back open.  We’re not completely sure why, but why not?  The kickers have hit 13 of 17 field goal attempts this season.  Not bad.  The kickers have missed two extra points this season.  Ugh.  We’re all for sticking with one kicker and riding him until he has a Martin Gramatica-like breakdown.  It doesn’t seem to have happened with either yet, but the job is up for grabs nonetheless.
10. And finally, because you all knew it was coming…to hell with Georgia!

A Look at Depth Charts: The Florida Defense

After covering the offense, I’m moving on to the defense. Considering it returns all 11 starters, this wasn’t too difficult to put together, but there are definitely a number of second-teamers with starting experience that could make a push for serious playing time.

Players that could assume a starting role sometime during the season are in italics.

Florida’s Defense

Defensive End – Jermaine Cunningham (SR)
Defensive End – Carlos Dunlap (JR), Justin Trattou (JR)
Defensive Tackle – Lawrence Marsh (RJR)
Defensive Tackle – Terron Sanders (RJR), Omar Hunter (RFR)
Middle Linebacker – Brandon Spikes (SR)
Outside Linebacker – Brandon Hicks (JR), A.J. Jones (RJR)
Outside Linebacker – Ryan Stamper (RSR), Dustin Doe (SR)
Cornerback – Joe Haden (JR)
Cornerback – Janoris Jenkins (SO)
Safety – Ahmad Black (JR)
Safety – Major Wright (JR)
Nickel Back – Will Hill (SO)

Some notes on the defense…

Trattou actually started 13 games at defensive end during the 2008 season and could be on the field for the first snap during a number of games again in 2009. But the two most talented ends are Cunningham and Dunlap and overall, they should see the most time on the field.

Marsh and Sanders did their jobs last season, but coaches are looking for the interior linemen to make more of an impact. Those two should be the starters again when the season begins, but look for Hunter to push them. And we may even see Gary Brown get some important time as a true freshman.

A number of outside linebackers could see action this year and the Gators wouldn’t miss a beat. Doe, Hicks, Jones, and Stamper all have experience starting. Look for a number of others to also get time in 2009.

Although Hill is a monster talent, Black and Wright (especially as the season progressed) played too well to be unseated easily. However, coaches will figure out a way to get Hill on the field as much as possible. He will be a star of the special teams again and should be the primary nickel back.

The Greatest Gators by Jersey Number: #92 – Reggie McGrew

#92 – Reggie McGrew, DT (1995-98)

McGrew was a key contributor from 1996 to 1998, including being a big part of the defense as only a redshirt freshman during the 1996 national championship season. He was named a freshman All-American that year and rewarded as the Gators Outstanding Freshman of the year.

McGrew would go on to be a first-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

Last Year’s Pick: McGrew

Current Gator: Terron Sanders, DT

Sanders had a breakout year in 2008, starting 12 of Florida’s 14 games. He still has two years of eligibility and if he can continue to improve, has a realistic shot at taking the top spot. The only thing holding him back is the rotation the Gators will probably use at defensive tackle. It’s hard to imagine Sanders being an every down defender with so many other options on the roster.

To see all of the greatest Gators (that I’ve done so far), click here.

TBG’s MVPs: Florida Defensive Linemen

Moving across the line…

Carlos Dunlap – 11 pts. (3 first-place votes)

Jarvis Moss. Derrick Harvey. Carlos Dunlap. Who’s next? Dunlap had a breakout year in 2008. So much so he’s been touted as a potential top 5 overall pick in a future NFL Draft. Gator fans definitely hope that’s two years from now and not one. With good depth returning at defensive end and a number of the defensive tackles having more experience, Dunlap’s sack number could go up in 2009. Look for him to be double-teamed frequently (which could bode well for #2 on this list).

After listing his accomplishments, One-Eyed Willy – who actually put Dunlap #2 – closed with this: “Now that I think about it, why am I not putting him #1?” Good question.

2. Jermaine Cunningham – 9 (1)
3. Lawrence Marsh/Terron Sanders – 2

Looking to 2009…

Carlos Dunlap – 12 (4)

Not much else to say when the winner is returning for another year. Another picture will do…

2. Jermaine Cunningham – 8
3. Lawrence Marsh – 2
4. Omar Hunter/Terron Sanders – 1

Up next: the linebackers.

Want to join the panel? Of course you don’t. Otherwise you already would have. What to discuss the beauty that is a summer day? Email me at thebullgator@live.com.