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Insider

Will juco DTs see early playing time?

12/23/2011

Maybe it’s too early to hand out nicknames to Visesio “Junior” Salt and Damien Jacobs, like “Salt n' Pepper,” but Florida’s most recent defensive tackle additions are expected to make a big contribution next season.

There is a reason Florida went hard after these two junior college prospects -- the Gators need experienced men who can contribute immediately and be leaders for the younger and often-immature players on the roster. Salt, who graduated high school in 2006, and Jacobs will bring more of a veteran feel to the interior of Florida’s line.

Florida also returns Omar Hunter, Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley, Leon Orr and Tevin Westbrook at tackle next year.

At first glance, that seems like a lot of bodies, but Hunter will be a senior, Easley is coming off a major knee surgery, Floyd is moving back to tackle from defensive end, and Orr and Westbrook have yet to see significant playing time.

Florida got pushed around in the running game against Alabama and LSU, so head coach Will Muschamp made it a priority to get bigger and more physical up front.

At 6-foot-3, 340 pounds, Salt is an ideal nose tackle in a 3-4 defensive scheme. He can eat up double teams and allow linebackers to make plays. Jacobs, who stands 6-4, 304, said on Wednesday he’s coming to Florida to help stop the run.

“I’m a run-stopper,” Jacobs said. “I can rush the quarterback too, but I’m a certified run-stopper.”

Don’t expect Salt or Jacobs to come in and have 10 sacks next season, but both should be able to help Florida’s run defense, which allowed 132.3 yards per game this season.

Jacobs has already signed his letter of intent with Florida and will enroll at Florida in January. Salt still has another semester to go and will get to Florida in May ahead of the rest of the freshman class. With Jacobs going through spring practices, I would expect to see him crack the rotation before Salt does. That said, with Salt’s wide body a luxury in the middle of the defensive line, it won’t be long before he sees the field.