Ronald Powell Stays On Track To Return To Florida Gators In October

Florida Gators Buck linebacker Ronald Powell was on track to take a major leap forward in 2012. The junior had shown flashes in the past, but was said to have been a workout warrior during the offseason. Powell appeared determined to live up to the enormous hype that came with being the nation’s top high school prospect a few years ago and people had taken notice. Then he tore the ACL in his left knee.

Not long ago, you would have seen “torn ACL” followed by “will miss the entire season.” Instead, Powell was given a timetable of being out four-to-six months. Still ambitious, but not out of the realm of possibility. If all continues to go as planned, Powell could make his debut in October. That’s great news for Florida and the to-be star defender, but everything is still very much in TBD mode.

Powell could be completely cleared to return, but he shouldn’t be rushed. Manning the position in his absence are Lerentee McCray and Dante Fowler Jr. We’ve heard of McCray’s positive progression and we’ve also heard that Fowler could command serious playing time from game one. Basically, the Gators seem to be in good hands at the Buck position. If the two are performing well, there’s no reason to rush Powell and risk further injury.

We all want to see Powell on the field as we hope for a great year from the junior, but no one – fans, coaches, players or Powell himself – should want to rush him back if there’s an opportunity to give him a little extra time rehabbing.

Dante Fowler Jr. Impresses In Practices, Ready For The Real Thing

Five-star recruit Dante Fowler Jr. waited until National Signing Day to commit to the Florida Gators. The defensive end/linebacker – who is working at the Buck position at Florida – was committed to the Florida State Seminoles until he pulled the switch. It didn’t come as much of a surprise, but we’re still happy with his final decision. Even more so now.

Fowler has been making a name for himself since day one. He’s been a standout at the Buck with Ronald Powell out. Fowler constantly finds himself disrupting the offense and has been in the backfield almost as much as the Gators’ running backs. His next goal is to carry that over to game days.

With Powell watching from the sidelines for part of the season, Fowler will get an opportunity to shine. He’ll split time at the Buck with Lerentee McCray, but there are already a number of people that believe Fowler could make the position his own once the games begin.

Fowler was a big get for the Gators and by the sounds of it he’s already living up to the hype.

Last-Minute Thoughts: UAB Blazers @ Florida Gators

When I have the opportunity to do this an hour before Florida games, I will. When I don’t, I won’t. Seems simple enough. These are a few last minute thoughts that may have been covered in the preview, or they may have been missed entirely. Those of you not tailgating like a champion today can add any of your own. Then again, those of you that are out there enjoying all the glory of the tailgate can as well.

1. John Brantley and the deep ball. Okay, I don’t even need the deep ball. I’d even like the intermediate ball. Either way, let’s see more of it. Florida needs it in the arsenal before the SEC schedule.

2. The Chris Rainey Show with The Jeff Demps Band. Stay healthy gentlemen; you are the keys to the offense. This is your year.

3. A superstar at wide receiver. Deonte Thompson? Quinton Dunbar? Andre Debose? A star is out there. One will eventually have to step up and we’re all waiting to find out who it will be.

4. Offensive line consistency. It’s needed, for an entire 60 minutes. Protect Brantley and open lanes up the middle for the running backs.

5. Sharrif Floyd. So he won’t play, but fans will chant. Whether it’s “Sharrif Floyd” or “Free Sharrif,” it’ll happen and it’ll be glorious.

6. Lerentee McCray’s coming out party. McCray was better than many expected against FAU. The position is his to lose now. This is his second test.

7. In the stolen-from-the-preview department: love Marcus Roberson, have an unhealthy man-crush on Matt Elam, like Jaylen Watkins more and more every day.

8. From Eric Wilbur to Chas Henry to ??? The Gators haven’t punted yet, but sooner or later they will have to. Don’t be worried; history says it’ll be simply amazing.

9. Will Muschamp, Game 2. The new head coach has an excellent win percentage so far. He’ll keep it up there a little while longer. Game two should be as smooth as game one. Not a step back, but another step forward.

10. No looking ahead. The SEC schedule starts NEXT WEEK with Tennessee. Not this week; NEXT WEEK.

BONUS. Go Gators!

Football Preview: UAB Blazers @ Florida Gators – Saturday, September 10, 2011 – 7:00pm

One down; 11, 12, or 13 to go. They may not be thetraditional type of preview you’re used to, but there is football coverageinvolved. You also get to learn a little something about Florida’s opponent. You really couldn’t ask for more, so don’t.Seriously, don’t. But if you insist on asking and you do want more, TBG is onTwitter and Facebook. I’ll be frequenting both throughout the day as collegefootball comes to life.
The Facts
Opponent: UABBlazers
When: Saturday,September 10, 2011 – 7:00pm
Broadcasting: FSN,Sirius 220, XM 199
Records: Florida:1-0, UAB: Nada
Point Spread forWagerin’ Folk: Florida -23
Over/Under for ThoseMentioned Above: 53
Betting Score ThatWould Calculate To: Florida 38-15
Our Gators’ WinFactor (See Here): TBG: 99, OEW: 99
Where We’ll BeWatching: TBG headquarters; multiple TVs a blazin’.
10 Things About UABFrom The World’s Greatest Source – Wikipedia
Do you think at one time it was called “The Wikipedia?” These are the types of things I think about.Football below for those not interested in learning more about our finenation’s higher educational institutions. See how I made you feel a littleguilty about skipping ahead?
1. The Universityof Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) wasestablished in 1936 and today is part of the University of Alabama System. Youknow one of the others, but do you know the third? It’s the University ofAlabama at Huntsville, home of the Chargers. (Mini UAH note: TheChargers’ ice hockey team has quite the history and in 2012 will host the NCAAHockey Frozen Four Championship in…drum roll…Tampa, FL.)
2. UAB is smallerthan the Gators’ first opponent. The school counts somewhere around 17,000undergrad and graduate students.
3. Last week, youlearned the Owlsey the Burrowing Owl is FAU’s mascot. This week, the Blazerswill be supported in mascot form by Blaze the Dragon. Not that an alligatornamed Albert is the freshest thing you’ve ever heard, but originality is takinga serious beating.
4. U.S. News andWorld Report named UAB the no. 1 up-and-coming university in 1992.
5. UniversityBoulevard is the main axis of the rectangle of land UAB sits on. Does everyschool have a “University” street ofsome kind?
6. Plans for anon-campus stadium are underway. Applause.
7. The studentbody is made up of 60% women. Well hello ladies!
8. The Mock Trialteam has experienced a history of overwhelming success. In 2006, they won anational title defeating Harvard.Well hello Blazers!
9. Sand (notbeach) volleyball and bowling have been added to the athletic program for the2011-2012 academic year.
10. Notable alumni:Roddy White – you know who he is, Deidre Downs – Miss American 2005.
When The Gators HaveThe Ball
The Gators’ offense excited us all during the 41-3 victoryover FAU. Or did it? The run gamewas dynamic…to the outside. And the pass game was effective…on short plays.Immediately after watching the game, we were all pleased. Going back and trulyreviewing the game, we were less so. But in all seriousness, we should be happywith our first glimpse at Charlie Weis’genius in Gainesville and here’s why: he plays to what the defense gives him.Unlike former Florida offensive mastermind SteveSpurrier, Weis doesn’t need to bring out the entire playbook to destroyevery opponent in his way. Weis brings a package of plays to each game and ifthey work, he sticks with them. Why call every play and use every weapon inyour arsenal when you only need a few? It’s a wise move even if it can be afrustrating one to fans. Expect to see more against UAB, but not much more ifthings go well enough early.
Where we would all like to see some change is in theintermediate and deep ball. The longest pass of the night against the Owls wentfor 20 yards; the longest John Brantleypass for 19. Fans like yours truly who grew up during the Spurrier era dig thelong ball. We don’t need a 70-yard touchdown strike every game, but we like thebig play. With Tennessee only a weekaway, I’d imagine will see more of a deeper passing game against UAB, but ifthe Gators don’t need it, we may not see it much.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you The Chris Rainey Show. What’s that, there’sanother dynamic running back on the roster?!? Really? Then why am I hearingvirtually nothing about him? No really, why are we hearing virtually nothingabout Jeff Demps? All Demps didagainst FAU was rush for 105 yards on only 12 carries (that’s 8.8 per), scoretwo touchdowns, and add 21 yards on three receptions. Yeah, let’s not show anyhighlights of him Worldwide Leader. Rainey was spectacular, but so was Demps.Don’t sleep on him this season. These two are quite the combo. That’s right, Isaid the TWO.
The next question is which wide receiver will be the firstto truly step up and have an “OH MY”game. Rainey led the team with six receptions against the Owls. The receiverswith the most catches were Andre Deboseand Deonte Thompson with only threea piece. Against FAU, Weis spread the ball around, but will he continue to doso? If so, and it works, count me onboard, but if the Gators get to a pointwhere they need a go-to receiver, we aren’t sure who it will be. Someone willbreak out during one of these early games. It’s anyone’s guess who.
As I mentioned last week, the offensive line is still thekey. Brantley needs confidence in knowing that he won’t get planted into theground the moment he releases the ball. That’s the offensive line’s job. Theywere okay against FAU, but not great. Protecting Brantley and opening up themiddle of the field for the run game are key. Defenses will only get tougher asthe schedule progresses. Today is a test for the line.
When The Blazers HaveThe Ball
137 total yards allowed with only 30 rushing; no touchdownsallowed; only allowing two third-down conversions on 13 attempts; only threepoints out of two red-zone attempts. I like it. Oh I like it. Will Muschamp, if this is your defense,we all applaud you.
I’ll start with LerenteeMcCray, who had a little bit of a coming out party. We didn’t know what wewould get out of McCray, but he played well, finished tackles, and was always aroundthe ball. The third linebacker spot is his now and we should all be comfortablewith that. If I were going in order, the defensive line would be first, but thelinebackers get the top spot because of what we saw, or didn’t see, lastseason. We know the talent and potential JonBostic and Jelani Jenkinspossess, and now we know they have a third member of their group they can relyon. Their numbers from the FAU game won’t jump out at you, but that mostly hasto do with the amount of players that saw the field. Expect the three to getmore time against UAB as coaches prepare for the SEC portion of the schedule.
We already know we won’t see Sharrif Floyd against UAB and it really is a disgrace. What isgreat about it though is motivation. If Floyd wasn’t a fan favorite already(and he should have been, he’s going to be phenomenal), he is now. Rumors of “Sharrif Floyd” and “Free Sharrif” chants throughout the game have come up, but whatwill truly be special is when he steps foot on the field in a week againstTennessee. For now, the Gators are in good shape because they don’t need Floydjust yet. Led by Jaye Howard (onesack against FAU), Dominique Easley(very glad he never left), and RonaldPowell (a sack as well against the Owls), Florida will be just fine untilFloyd returns. UAB is a more accomplished passing team than FAU, so the linewill need to get pressure early and often.
On to the secondary and the “not sure what we have just yet” unit. Love Marcus Roberson, have a serious man-crush on Matt Elam, and like JaylenWatkins more and more every day. Roberson and Elam have solidified theirhold on their positions, but everyone has expected that for quite some time. It’sthe other two positions that we’re unsure about. UAB will be more of a test,but a test the Gators need and we should all be happy to watch. A starting fourneed to be etched in stone before Tennessee.
And now to turnovers. Turnovers aren’t necessary against theFAUs and UABs of the world. Florida can win without them. Okay, so a program likeFlorida can theoretically beat anyone without them, but they sure are nice. Ifthe defense is going to be the strength, they need to force turnovers. We haven’tseen any yet, but expect them to start to come.
Special Teams
Caleb Sturgis wassolid in his first game of the season, connecting on all seven kicks heattempted. Expect him to continue to be the kicker the Gators thought they weregetting when they recruited him. The punting game has been non-existent thisseason and it’s a disgrace! No, no it’s not. Florida didn’t punt against FAUand you should be fine with that. While you’d like to see the punter get someexperience, not having to use him is a good thing. Kick returns? Eh. A 15-yardaverage with a long of 18 isn’t great. Punt returns? Eh. A 28-yarder by Solomon Patton highlighted things, butthat’s about it. Punt block? YES! Against UAB, the Gators need to get more outof their return game, but continue to pressure opposing kickers and punters.The block teams could be a strong point all season.
I don’t see the Gators’ offense letting up in terms ofpoints scored. We could very easily see 41 points again (yes, I know specialteams contributed a score). On the defensive side of the ball, I don’t see theunit breaking, but UAB is a better offensive team then FAU. It wouldn’tsurprise me if the Blazers put one in the end zone or even two. The game shouldbe out of reach early, but 41-10 or 45-14 are possible scores. With the Gatorscontinuing to use a large amount of the roster, UAB could sneak one in.All-in-all, nothing to worry about Gator fans.

Florida Gators Linebackers – 2010 vs. 2011

One Eyed Willy and I continue to run through the positions, comparing this year’s roster to that of 2010. To read past installments, click each position: quarterbacks, running backs and fullbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line.

2010: Lorenzo Edwards – SR, Brandon Hicks – SR, A.J. Jones – RSR, Jon Bostic – SO, Dee Finley – SO, Scott Peek – RSO, Gideon Ajagbe – FR, Neiron Ball – FR, Jelani Jenkins – RFR, Darrin Kitchens – FR, Ronald Powell – FR, Michael Taylor – FR
Preseason Rating: A
Postseason Rating: C
It would take a lot to convince me to give the Florida linebackers anything less than an A before the start of the 2010 season. Actually, no; you couldn’t convince me they didn’t deserve an A. I would stand my ground on that one. Brandon Hicks had been solid all-around for quite some time and was poised to take a leadership role. A.J. Jones had made some big plays over his career and was something of an under-the-radar type. Jon Bostic seemed to have the potential to be Johnny Rutledge, Andra Davis, Channing Crowder, Brandon Siler, and Brandon Spikes all rolled into one. We were about to see all-world Jelani Jenkins join their ranks. And add the possibility of the nation’s top recruit in Ronald Powell alternating between defensive end and linebacker and you had possibly the best unit on the team. Then something strange happened.
The linebackers disappeared.
I’ve been very careful to not place complete blame on the Gators’ invisible linebackers on anyone in particular, and for good reason. I really don’t know what happened. Some have said individuals like Bostic and Jenkins haven’t lived up to the hype. Some even remarked that Powell had an underwhelming freshman season. I’d argue with you on that for one huge reason: coaching.
Sure, each and every one of the players named above could have performed better. There’s no denying that. However, I have to look at the other piece of the puzzle and that piece is coaching. What was drawn up for these guys? Bostic wasn’t missing tackles on every other play; he was lined up ineffectively. Linebackers were sent on blitzes when the offensive formation or down and yardage to go didn’t warrant it. Although overall play could have been better, coaching contributed greatly to holding the unit back. Many times, they were removed from the play before the play even began.
Due to all of this, the unit gets a C and some are probably even asking “why that high?” I can’t give them a D for the sole reason that they did what they were told to do. They didn’t perform great and there were no All-Americans among them, but had they even lined up in a basic 4-3 zone or man formation for every single snap of the 2010 season, they would have performed better. Instead they were moved around the field while the defensive coaches tried to find an identity for their unit. The coaches get the D in this respect. The unit overall? C.
Jon Bostic – JR, Lerentee McCray – RJR, Scott Peek – RJR, Neiron Ball – SO, Dee Finley – RSO, Jelani Jenkins – RSO, Darrin Kitchens – SO, Ronald Powell – SO, Gideon Ajagbe – RFR, Graham Stewart – FR, Michael Taylor – RFR
Preseason Rating: A
It’s another A and for almost all the reasons it was an A before 2010. Bostic, Jenkins, and Powell have as much raw talent as any linebacking corps in the SEC. Add to them some players growing in the position and you have a unit that could be dangerously good. And yes, I include Powell here and even Lerentee McCray. Powell is playing the buck position and is mostly mentioned with the defensive ends, but if we understand the expectations of the position, he’ll be an LB from time to time. During recent practices, McCray has been moved from DE to LB and even been mentioned as a starter at times. He belongs here as well.
This unit has the potential to be the backbone of the defense as well as the captain of that ship. It needs to be again. Bostic has to take control as the main man in the middle. He needs to command the respect on and off the field that the former great Florida MLBs did. Jenkins needs to be the all-conference performer we all know he can be. And Powell – wherever he may be on the field – needs to enter beast mode and remain in it for 12 or 13 or 14 games.
The rest of the unit is solid in terms of potential, but lacking in terms of experience. None have significant playing time, but any could be asked to jump into an expanded role in 2011. If one of the starters goes down for any significant amount of time, that’s exactly what will happen. This unit, as much as any on the team, needs some blowout time early in the first few games so the backups can get in and get their feet wet. That’s almost a necessity with the linebackers.
One player I haven’t mentioned yet is Gerald Christian and for good reason. I have no idea where he will or won’t see the field. He’s a tight end. He’s a linebacker. He’s a tight end. He’s a linebacker. He’s a tight end. I know this happens with players from time to time because of talent at multiple positions or an injury forcing a move, but I hate it when it does. We may see Christian at LB at some point in 2011, but for now he’s a TE. I think.

OEO: Florida Gators Arrests, Lerentee McCray The "Adult," And The Starting Running Back

One Eyed Observations of the Florida Gators. TBG asking; OEW answering.
The Bull Gator: Seriously? The Gators still have a problem with arrests?
One Eyed Willy: We all know the statistics by now: under Urban Meyer’s leadership, there were 30 (or so) arrests of Florida players for one reason or another. Rival fans had a field day with that stat and would point to it to show Meyer’s lack of discipline and a thug-like mentality of our football team. Even UF fans realized that this number seemed rather high and many believed the Gators had unfortunately taken a win-at-all-costs approach to the game.
With the hiring of Will Muschamp, most believed that he would turn the program around and no longer allow these types of situations to occur – at least not on such a regular basis. So, how has Muschamp done in his first eight months on the job? Well, maybe not as well as one would initially think:
Janoris Jenkins – Arrested in January 2011 for misdemeanor possession of marijuana; arrested again in April 2011 for misdemeanor possession of Mary Jane; dismissed from team shortly thereafter.
De’Ante “Pop” Saunders – Arrested in May 2011 for misdemeanor possession of the sticky-icky; punishment unknown at this time.
Chris Martin – Arrested in June 2011 for misdemeanor possession of the herb; transferred from team shortly thereafter.
Kedric Johnson – Arrested in June 2011 for misdemeanor possession of the wacky tabacky; punishment unknown at this time.
Matt Elam – Arrested in July 2011 for misdemeanor possession of cannabis; no wait…he wasn’t arrested for that? My bad. Arrested in July 2011 for possession of alcohol by a minor (for the second year in a row); punishment unknown at this time.
Let me first say that I was no choir boy when I was at the University of Florida. But I was smart. I didn’t do stuff in public that I wasn’t supposed to do. If I was drinking underage, I tried to hide it the best I could and certainly never drove afterwards. If I was taking part in Mother Nature’s medicine for glaucoma, I would only do so in the confines of my fraternity house and/or home. That doesn’t make what I did right, but it does make me like 95% of the people who attended the University of Florida.
So I am not going to sit here and bash these guys for smoking a little ganja or drinking while underage. But what I am going to bash them for being ignorant enough to do it in a place where they could easily be caught. They have to realize that they are under a microscope. Gone are the days when players could get away with anything and only have to run some stadium steps as punishment. In today’s world, the public knows EVERYTHING. Mess up and we will certainly find out. So go ahead and be kids, have fun in college and do the things that all of us did at one time or another. Just be smart about it!
TBG: In an interview, Lerentee McCray said one difference between Muschamp and Meyer was that Muschamp treated the players like adults. Thoughts?
OEW: WHACK! That sound you just heard was Lerentee McCray slapping Coach Meyer across the cheek and then pointing at him like the guy hanging out of the helicopter points at the dude trapped under the rock in that Wheat Thins commercial. (Side note: In writing this response, I went to YouTube to watch that commercial and someone wrote the following three comments: 1. If you have a dog named Lucky then you’re ironically screwed anyway; 2. Ginger people can’t hike; 3. People that hang from helicopters are jerks. No truer statements have ever been written in the history of mankind.)
But I digress. I think first you have to realize that McCray is probably a little bit bitter (or maybe sour) about the Meyer-led regime considering he did not get a ton of significant playing time over the last three years. But he is also probably stating a fact in that it seemed to me like Coach Meyer wanted to be friends with the players BEFORE he wanted to be their coach – especially over the last few seasons. I am all for coaches becoming friendly with their players, but that cannot come at the expensive of the players knowing that the coach’s #1 job is to teach them how to be better football players and to put the best product on the field. It seems to me like somewhere along the way, Coach Meyer may have forgotten this a little bit and tried to be friends with all the players rather than more of a father-like figure.
TBG: We play a game every year where we guess who the running back on the field for the first snap of the season will be. It’s not always who you might think it would be. Who it is this season and why?
OEW: Given the new offense we are running this year, I think one of two things can happen on the first play against that stingy FAU defense. (Actually about a million things can happen on the first play, but I am so smart I have limited it down to only two distinct possibilities.) First, we could have John Brantley line up under center and hand it off to one of the running backs and show the world that we are a running team first. Or second, we could have Brantley line up under center, fake the run, and throw it deep to show that we have confidence in our quarterback.
Either way, I think you will see one of the senior running backs line up in the backfield this year on the first play. Out of the two – Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps – my money is on Rainey being the “starter” at the tailback position. I think Rainey will be rewarded for what everyone is calling a terrific offseason and because he has been learning the offense nonstop for the past eight months while Demps has been focused on his duties with Florida’s track and field team.
As you and I both know TBG, being the “starter” in college football really means nothing. I think it was you who pointed out that last year Brantley actually started at wide receiver in one game. But what does mean something is a big fat Newberry bar-b-que sandweeech (spelled like it’s pronounced!). And since that is the going wager that we have year-after-year on this bet, I take this very seriously. So therefore, I have officially made my selection of Chris Rainey for the 2011 season! And hopefully when I win this year (again) you losers will actually pay up for once!

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!