- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
During the summer, GatorNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Florida roster -- excluding the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class -- in our Gator Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Quinton Dunbar, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 97 Brad Phillips.
No. 28 Jeremi Powell
Redshirt freshman linebacker
Expectations for 2013: The linebacker position is in flux, with middle linebacker Antonio Morrison pretty much the only player who has locked up a spot. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Powell is among the players competing for playing time on defense, but his main contribution will likely come on special teams. Powell was one of UF’s top scout-team players last season (he was named the team’s offensive, defensive or special teams scout team player of the week five times) and has the speed and athleticism to make plays in the open field.
Best-case scenario in 2013: Powell is behind several experienced players and highly-touted freshman Daniel McMillian in the depth chart, so he’s likely going to make his mark as a special teams player. And that’s fine, because several players have excelled there as freshmen and moved into bigger roles as sophomores (Loucheiz Purifoy and Brian Poole are the latest examples). It looks like UF will again have to rely on the running game, defense and special teams to win games in 2013, so anyone who is a key special teams performer is as valuable as any offensive or defensive player.
Worst-case scenario in 2013: There’s a lot of competition on special teams, too, so Powell could find himself fighting for a job there as well. The staff likes Powell’s effort and aggressiveness and was impressed with how he handled himself on the scout team. However, that doesn’t buy him an automatic spot in special teams this season.
Future impact: Powell is probably a year away from making any kind of impact on defense, and the most likely spot is at strongside linebacker, provided Powell can put on a bit of weight. If Ronald Powell has a good season, he’ll likely declare for the NFL draft and that would leave Neiron Ball as the Gators’ top option there heading into 2014. Jeremi Powell can certainly make a move there, but it appears McMillian will have wrapped up the starting spot at weakside backer by the middle of the 2013 season.