- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday through Jan. 31, 2013, GatorNation will break down each position. We’ll look at 2013, of course, but also try and give you a peek beyond next season, too. Today is outside linebacker. We will profile inside linebacker on Thursday.
Two-deep: Redshirt sophomore Neiron Ball is the starter at strongside linebacker and is backed up by junior Darrin Kitchens. Freshman Antonio Morrison is the starter at weakside linebacker and is backed up by redshirt sophomore Michael Taylor. Redshirt junior Jelani Jenkins is the normal starter at weakside linebacker but he recently underwent surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot and will miss the bowl game.
Next up: The Gators don’t have much depth on the roster. Freshman Jeremi Powell redshirted this season but is one of the players the coaching staff really likes. He was named the scout team player of the week five times. Redshirt sophomore Gideon Ajagbe was unable to earn playing time. The hybrid end/linebackers were featured in the defensive end breakdown.
High-profile commits: Four-star recruit Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) is ranked 44th in ESPN’s 150 and is rated as the country’s No. 3 outside linebacker. Florida State had developed a pipeline into First Coast (six players have signed with the Seminoles since 2008), but the 6-foot-2, 220-pound McMillian said he didn’t want to be just another First Coast player who went to Tallahassee. The 6-1, 210-pound Jarrad Davis (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County) committed to Florida earlier this month. He’s a three-star recruit who was originally committed to Auburn. The Gators also got a commitment from four-star recruit Matt Rolin (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods) this month as well. The 6-4, 209-pound Rolin plans to enroll early but will redshirt as he continues to recover from a torn ACL.
Additional targets: Former Florida commit Quinton Powell (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland) recently re-opened his recruitment, but there is still a possibility the 6-2, 200-pound athlete will reconsider signing with the Gators. UF isn’t targeting any other outside linebackers.
Looking into 2013: Florida should be solid at this spot next season, especially if Jenkins returns as expected. He and Morrison would likely be the starters. Kitchens likely will remain a backup. The intriguing player is Ball, who sat out the 2011 season because of bleeding in his brain. He improved throughout the season as he became more comfortable in the system and his body adjusted to the physical pounding after a year away. Ball has the potential to develop into a quality starter. That would give the Gators options, one of which would be possibly moving Morrison inside if he were to bulk up enough. The defensive staff also really likes Powell, and he should see plenty of playing time, especially on special teams.
1dSam Khan Jr.
3dSam Khan Jr.