Monday, August 26, 2013

2013 Florida Gators Preview - Defense

Dominique Easley leads the team in an impromptu modern interpretive dance, loosely based on the life of Nature Boy Ric Flair.
 Last year UF had a BCS championship caliber defense to go with its Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl offense.  The result was an unexpected 11-win season.

This season the Gators have some huge shoes to fill at various positions, but there's plenty of young talent to go around.

Let's take a look at the Gators' 2013 defense...

Defensive Line
Shariff Floyd, Omar Hunter, Lerentee McCray and Earl Okine...all gone.  Back are rising stars Dante Fowler and Jonathan Bullard, who might be UF's best DE tandem since Kevin Carter, and that other guy.  Kevin Carter was just that good...Fowler might be better.

Dominique Easley's crazy ass moves inside to DT, but he'll play all over the place.  I'm predicting he'll get at least one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for twerking in between plays.  I expect big things from Damien Jacobs, who didn't get much pre-season press because all of his sacks and tackles last season were credited to punter Kyle Cristy, who also wears #4.

The only question mark in an otherwise solid defensive unit.  If Coach Muschamp can keep Antonio Morrison from acting a fool, we might be okay.  Ronald Powell is back, and like Matt Jones his dreadlocks have the promise of  Clowney-like greatness, but that trick knee has to hold up first.  Darren Kitchens, Neiron Ball and Michael Taylor will get plenty of PT, but there's not much proven depth behind them...unless you count the three years the true freshmen started in high school.  No injuries please....

"UF's secondary is deep, it put that ass to sleep."
- Ice Cube

Loaded...absolutely loaded.  No issues here, other than Louchiez Purifoy getting more pre-season hype than Marcus Roberson.  Purifoy's next interception will be his first, and he got picked on repeatedly by Teddy Bridgewater, but he's making pre-season All-American teams.  That said, Roberson and Purifoy are easily the SEC's best corner tandem. Add in the nation's top freshman Vernon Hargreaves III, some talented youngsters losing their redshirt (Brian Poole) and some grizzled veterans (Jaylen Watkins and Jeremy Brown), UF boasts the best group of corners in the nation.

EDIT:  I just learned Jeremy Brown sprained his left wrist signing autographs after practice today.  This injury is all the more baffling, considering Brown is right-handed.  Originally the coaching staff expected Brown to only miss 8 games, but the injury worsened, and doctors at Shands were forced to amputate Brown's right leg.  Brown mailed in his petition to the NCAA for a 7th year of eligibility, but suffered a nasty paper cut when sealing the envelope.

Replacing Matt Elam won't be easy.  Keeping teammates safe from Matt Elam's blindside celebratory attacks following big plays...much easier.  Coaches are raving about redshirt freshman Marcus Maye, and there's a handful of freshmen who will get thrown into the fire early, namely Keanu Neal and Orlando native Marcell Harris.  In spite of looking up to Cee Lo Green and the world's shortest construction attorney Brian Heald, 5'6" Cody Riggs will start and thrive at free safety.  Somewhere Ahmad Black is smiling.

Defensive Outlook:
Bad news:  UF lost a shit ton of NFL studs from its 2012 defense.
Good news:  Over the past two seasons UF recruited a shit ton of future NFL studs on defense.

(If my mother is reading this, "shit ton" means an excessive amount...and I apologize for saying shit four times before the season starts, let alone three months before Hate Week.)

I've got my doubts about Will Muschamp, but I don't question his ability to assemble and coach up championship caliber defenses.  UF won't have the SEC's best defense again this season, but they'll be damn good.  Ronald Powell's knee, Antonio Morrison's head and the interior defensive line hold the key to what could be another elite defensive unit.

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