- 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. 4 Damien Jacobs
Senior nose tackle
Expectations for 2013: Jacobs steps into the role that Omar Hunter had in 2012 as a run-plugging anchor in the middle of the defensive line. Jacobs has the size (6-foot-3, 290 pounds) and strength to get that done, and it’s important he does because of the Gators’ relative inexperience at linebacker. Jacobs has to occupy blockers and not give any ground in order to keep middle linebacker Antonio Morrison free to make plays. Jacobs played solidly in his first season at Florida after transferring from East Mississippi Community College (10 tackles, 2.5 sacks) as Hunter’s backup and ended the spring as the starter.
Best-case scenario for 2013: UF has not had much success with junior college transfers over the past decade, but it appears Jacobs is poised to snap that trend. If he continues to develop, he has the potential to put up numbers similar to Hunter did in 2012 (40 tackles, six pass breakups). However, he’s a better interior pass rusher than Hunter and will be able to benefit from UF’s improved pass rush. If Ronald Powell, Dante Fowler and Jonathan Bullard can get pressure on the edge and force the quarterback to step up in the pocket, Jacobs will have a chance to possibly double his sack total.
Worst-case scenario for 2013: Jacobs is a bit lighter than the ideal size for a nose tackle, so there’s a question of whether he’ll be able to consistently hold his ground. One of Hunter’s biggest assets last season was his consistency. If Jacobs struggles there redshirt junior Leon Orr, who out-weighs Jacobs by 20 pounds, will jump him in the rotation.
Future impact: The staff wants Jacobs to help the young defensive tackles, especially freshmen Joey Ivie and Caleb Brantley, develop this season and get ready to assume bigger roles in 2014. Plus, the Gators have two more former EMCC defensive tackles (Darious Cummings and Jarran Reed) on the roster, so Jacobs was the beginning of a pipeline into Scooba, Miss.
2dSam Khan Jr.