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Gators building depth, chemistry at LB

2/29/2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- After failing to stop the run against bigger, more physical teams such as Alabama and LSU in 2011, Florida head coach Will Muschamp has made it a priority to get bigger and add depth to his linebacker group.

The Gators finished sixth in the SEC in rush defense with 153 rushing yards allowed per game. Florida, however, surrendered 226 yards to Alabama and 238 yards to LSU in embarrassing losses.

Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins didn't play poorly last season, but were at times inconsistent. With a lack of depth, the two were often worn out by the end of games.

The Gators signed linebackers Jeremi Powell and Antonio Morrison, along with hybrid defensive end/outside linebackers Bryan Cox Jr., Alex McCalister and Dante Fowler Jr. in their class of 2012, adding immediate depth.

Now a month in to the 2013 recruiting cycle, Florida already has four linebacker commits.

Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) and James Hearns (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln) wasted no time committing to Florida the day after the 2012 recruiting cycle concluded on national signing day.

In just a short time, Hearns and McMillian have become close friends.

"We talk all the time," Hearns said. "Me, Quinton [Powell] and Daniel talk all the time. We talk not just about football but everything, you know like how's it going, what's it like down there or what's it like in Tallahassee. Just how we are ready to get down there and grind and stuff like that."

Powell, who committed to Florida during his recent junior day visit, said he already feels like the other linebackers are like family.

"They feel like they're my brothers," Powell said. "They're already showing me love, and I like that. I'm looking forward to another family when I get there."

Like Powell, Dillan Lawson (Crestview, Fla./Crestview) came out of nowhere to commit to the Gators on that same junior day visit. Lawson said he is already starting to build a relationship with Powell and Florida safety commit Keanu Neal.

"They seem like they are going to be great teammates and hard working guys," Lawson said. "We can't wait until it's our time."

With highly recruited linebackers Tim Kimbrough, Stacy Thomas, Peter Kalambayi, Elijah Daniel, E.J. Levenberry and Reuben Foster still available, it's possible Florida could still take other linebackers or hybrid bucks in the class.

And the circle of friends could well grow.

ESPN.com recruiting reporter Derek Tyson can be reached by email at DerekTysonESPN@gmail.com or you can follow him on Twitter: @DerekTysonESPN.