Florida Gators: jordan sherit

Editor’s note: We’re breaking down the Gators’ two-deep depth chart every day for the next two weeks. We’ll cover every position as well as offer a glimpse into the future. You can read the whole series here.

DEFENSIVE LINE

[+] EnlargeFowler Jr
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsFlorida is expecting junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. to be a terror off the edge.
The starters: Junior ends Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler Jr., senior tackles Leon Orr and Darious Cummings

The backups: Sophomores ends Bryan Cox Jr., and Alex McCalister, redshirt freshmen tackles Caleb Brantley and Jay-nard Bostwick

The rest: Sophomore Joey Ivie, redshirt freshman Jordan Sherit and true freshmen Taven Bryan, Thomas Holley, Khairi Clark, Justus Reed and Gerald Willis III

The lowdown: The Gators' defensive line has lost proven commodities such as Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley to the NFL in the last two years, but the turnstiles keep moving as more talent emerges. The focal point in 2014 will be Fowler, a hybrid DE/LB who combines power and quickness to provide some serious pass rush from the edge. Coach Will Muschamp is hoping Fowler will command doubleteams and allow the rest of the line to flourish as well. While Fowler dominated spring practice, the coaching staff experimented with Bullard moving to defensive tackle on passing downs. That move gives more opportunities to Cox, who made a move up the depth chart. At defensive tackle, the Gators are looking for improved play from Orr and Cummings, two seniors who haven't done much more than stuff the run and occupy blockers. Overall, there is a big gap between the first and second units, as Muschamp complained on more than one occasion about the stamina and motors of backup tackles Brantley and Bostwick. He's hoping the next wave of high-level talent coming this fall pushes for playing time. Willis and Holley, the nation's No. 2- and 3-ranked defensive tackles, respectively, have a chance to step into backup roles immediately.

The future: With so many freshmen and sophomores already poised to play in 2014, the future is rock solid. Florida is likely to redshirt at least two of its five DL signees from the 2014 class. But the line is an area where top prospects can make a huge difference. In Muschamp's three seasons, the Gators have ranked No. 8, No. 5 and No. 5 nationally in total defense, and they did it without a consistent pass rush. The 2015 class has the potential to push UF into a defensive stratosphere with so many elite prospects in the state of Florida. The Gators already have a commitment from DL Andrew Ivie, Joey's brother. The top targets are DE Byron Cowart and DL CeCe Jefferson, two of top 10 overall players in the country.

Gators need more from their D-linemen

February, 14, 2014
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It's hard to find fault with a defense that ranked No. 5 in the nation last season.

Stout defense has been the identity of the Florida Gators under coach Will Muschamp. It has carried the team and its dysfunctional offense for years. But something was off in 2013.

Florida fielded its usual dominant pass defense, allowing just nine TDs through the air (second-fewest in the country). But the run defense slipped from a No. 4 ranking in 2012 to No. 33 last season (allowing 47.5 more rushing yards per game), including an embarrassing loss to FCS Georgia Southern in which Florida gave up 429 yards -- all on the ground.

[+] EnlargeDante Fowler Jr.
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsFormer ESPN 300 defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who had 3.5 sacks in 2013, needs to be more consistent.
Those numbers, however, still indicate some blame for the Florida offense. Opponents in 2013 typically kept the Gators off the scoreboard, built up a lead and then ran out the clock. So UF's defensive stats are skewed.

But after a week of picking on the offense in identifying the five position groups that have room to improve, the final installment of this series has to focus on the defense.

Because everything starts up front, we'll look at the defensive line. It had plenty to do with the run defense getting worse in 2013, and it had its worst season in years in terms of applying pressure to quarterbacks.

Florida had 19 sacks in 12 games last season, down from 30 in 13 games the year before and continuing a downward trend since recording 39 sacks in 14 games in 2009.

Battling for No. 1: Florida has solid bookends in buck linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. and strong-side end Jonathan Bullard. Their talent is undeniable, but the production just does not match it. One or two splashy games a season isn't good enough. But UF's ends also need more help from their interior linemen. When Florida lost senior DT Dominique Easley to injury, the threat of a push up the middle was gone. The starters at defensive tackle this fall are likely to be seniors Leon Orr and Darious Cummings, but unless they show dramatic improvement in disrupting opponents, Florida is going to need contributions from some newcomers.

Strength in numbers: Muschamp said the Gators are excited about three defensive tackles who redshirted last season -- Jay-nard Bostwick, Caleb Brantley and Antonio Riles -- saying each has "the athleticism and the girth to play the position." Florida could also get a contribution from Joey Ivie. He was the only D-lineman who didn't redshirt in 2013 and can play inside or outside. At defensive end, Bryan Cox Jr. and Alex McCalister stepped forward as backups last season. It's important for either of those two, or redshirt freshman end Jordan Sherit, to take the next step and improve Florida's pass rush this fall.

New on the scene: The Gators signed a terrific defensive lineman class in 2014. Gerald Willis III, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound prospect ranked No. 42 overall in the nation, can play end or tackle and could make an immediate impact. Tackles Thomas Holley and Khairi Clark are highly touted but raw talents who could redshirt but have the bodies to play immediately. Early enrollee defensive end Taven Bryan has already drawn raves from Muschamp, who said, "he's explosive. He's got really good flexibility in his lower body. He's got a great motor, a great work ethic. We are extremely pleased." Florida also signed buck linebacker prospect Justus Reed, an ESPN 300 talent with potential who is likely to redshirt while he adds bulk and strength to his 6-3, 215-pound frame.

Muschamp: Bigger is better at UF

August, 16, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida fans better get a good look at senior wide receiver Solomon Patton this season because guys like him are going to be hard to find around here from now on.

Small guys.

The 5-foot-9, 171-pound Patton doesn’t really fit into coach Will Muschamp’s philosophy that bigger is better. Not just on the line of scrimmage, either. Big receivers. Big defensive backs. Big linebackers.

[+] EnlargeJon Halapio
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackGuard Jon Halapio, at 6 feet 3 and 321 pounds, meets Will Muschamp's size criteria to compete in the SEC.
Size does matter at Florida now. Muschamp believes it’s the best way to have success in the Southeastern Conference.

"This is a big man’s league," he said. "When you go pay to watch a boxing match, you don’t go watch the featherweights fight. You go watch heavyweights fight. This is a heavyweight league.

"So we need have a big, physical team. You can still be really fast, but you better be big and physical if you want to win in this league right now."

Muschamp is in his third season and working on his fourth signing class, and he has certainly made the Gators a bigger, more physical team in that short period of time. To see the difference, look at UF’s roster from 2009. The Gators had five starters or key contributors who were 5-9 or shorter: Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Ahmad Black, Markihe Anderson and Brandon James.

This year’s team has only one starter that small: 5-9 safety Cody Riggs. Patton is a role player (he’s the jet sweep guy) and the shortest player on scholarship is 5-7 freshman running back Adam Lane -- who weighs 222 pounds.

Muschamp’s philosophy goes further than just the size of the players. He wants the bulk of his 85-man roster to be comprised of what he calls big-skill positions: offensive and defensive linemen, linebackers and tight ends. He wants 50. Right now he has 42 (see breakdown below).

Muschamp wants 15-17 offensive linemen, and the Gators are close to that number. They have five scholarship tight ends, too. The defensive line is where the problem is. The Gators are short on ends, especially speed rushers. There are eight scholarship defensive tackles, but only three have played in a game (Dominique Easley, Leon Orr and Damien Jacobs), and just two bucks (hybrid defensive end/linebacker).

It’ll take at least a couple more signing classes for the Gators to be as stocked along the defensive line as Muschamp would like. Muschamp believes long-term success at Florida -- and therefore the SEC -- depends on beefing up those defensive numbers.

And not just to compete with Alabama and Nick Saban, either.

"When big guys run out of gas, they’re done," Muschamp said. "We don’t ever want our big guys up front to play more than six or eight snaps in a row and have the intensity you’ve got to play with to be successful in this league. So you can’t ever have enough defensive linemen or pass rushers, especially the way the game’s going.

"You look in our league at Missouri and Kentucky and Tennessee, a lot of schools are going to a little bit of a Big 12 model, like Texas A&M, where they’re spreading the field, and you can’t ever have enough guys that can play in space and rush the passer. The most exerting thing in football is rushing the passer. Those guys are battling against a 315-pound guy and trying to push the pocket, so you can’t ever have enough of those guys."

Here’s the breakdown of what Muschamp calls the big-skill players:

Offensive line

Ideal number: 15-17

Number on the roster: 14. Tyler Moore, Quinteze Williams, Rod Johnson, Octavius Jackson, Cameron Dillard, Trip Thurman, Jon Halapio, D.J. Humphries, Jonotthan Harrison, Chaz Green, Max Garcia, Trenton Brown, Ian Silberman, Kyle Koehne.

Comment: The Gators will lose four players to graduation but have four offensive line commits for 2014, three of whom weigh more than 300 pounds. The line has gotten bigger, stronger and more physical since Muschamp called them soft at the end of his first season.

Defensive tackle

Ideal number: 8-10

Number on the roster: 8. Damien Jacobs, Joey Ivie, Leon Orr, Darious Cummings, Jay-nard Bostwick, Caleb Brantley, Antonio Riles, Dominique Easley.

Comment: Not a lot of experience here, but the four freshmen (Ivie, Bostwick, Brantley and Riles) will gain valuable experience as part of the rotation this season.

Defensive ends

Ideal number: 6-8

Number on roster: 4. Alex McCalister, Jonathan Bullard, Jordan Sherit, Bryan Cox.

Comment: Easley also can play end. This is perhaps the most flexible position, with several players having the ability to play inside on passing downs to get the best pass rushers on the field.

Bucks

Ideal number: 4-6

Number on roster: 2. Dante Fowler, Ronald Powell.

Comment: This position also needs to be beefed up quickly, with Powell likely leaving after this year if he has a good season. Some flexibility here, too, because Cox and McCalister could spend time here.

Linebackers

Ideal number: 9-12

Number on roster: 9. Michael Taylor, Matt Rolin, Jeremi Powell, Jarrad Davis, Neiron Ball, Darrin Kitchens, Daniel McMillian, Alex Anzalone, Antonio Morrison.

Comment: UF has one bona fide stud (Morrison) and a mix of veteran role players and freshmen. McMillian is a player to watch. He could become a starter by midseason. This is an important position group because it produces a lot of special teams players.

Tight ends

Ideal number: 3-5

Number on roster: 5. Clay Burton, Tevin Westbrook, Kent Taylor, Colin Thompson, Trevon Young.

Comment: A lot of players, but little production so far. Burton, Westbrook and Thompson are mainly blockers, but there’s optimism that Thompson can develop into someone who can work the middle of the field.

Tales From the Road: Florida 

June, 5, 2013
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Each week, Tales From The Road will provide news and updates about where Florida's coaches are recruiting and which prospects are making headlines.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A quick look back at the week that was at GatorNation:

Last week was Rankings Week, and GatorNation ranked UF's 2013 schedule, the top offensive and defensive players the Gators will face in 2013, the top 10 freshman contributors, and the top recruiting needs Insider for 2014.

NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. put Gators QB Jeff Driskel on his list of quarterbacks he's watching in terms of the 2014 draft.

SEC blogger Edward Aschoff writes that RB Matt Jones is ready for the spotlight.

Big 12 blogger David Ubben gave us the Big 12-SEC matchups he'd like to see.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said being called the devil by Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis during a booster club speaking engagement was "terribly disappointing."

On the recruiting trail ...

The biggest news of the week was the decommitment of ESPN 150 OLB Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley). Insider

GatorNation's Derek Tyson answered your questions in his weekly mailbag. Insider

Tyson also wrote some tidbits, updates and news about the Gators' recruiting in the weekly Tales from the Road and met up with signee Jordan Sherit for a Q&A. Insider

Safety Trey Marshall (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) grew up a Florida fan but there's another school on top of his list right now. Insider

The Florida basketball team picked up a commitment from PG Chris Chiozza (Memphis, Tenn./White Station). Insider
GatorNation's Rankings Week concludes with a list of the Gators’ top needs in recruiting for the class of 2014, as well as a list of the top players the Gators are pursuing at those positions.

Ranking UF’s needs for 2014

1. Offensive line

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Florida signee Q&A: Jordan Sherit 

May, 13, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation wants you to get to know Florida’s incoming freshmen.

How are they preparing for their first college season? What are their goals for 2013?

To find that out, we’re starting a series of Q&As, beginning with defensive end Jordan Sherit (Tampa, Fla./Hillsborough), who is coming off an ACL tear suffered during his senior season.

GatorNation: What’s your current height and weight, what number will you wear, and who will you room with next season?

Sherit: 6-5, 248, No. 17, and I'll be rooming with Vernon Hargreaves III.

GN: What are you doing for offseason conditioning drills?


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Recruiting outlook: 2014 and 2015 

February, 13, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp not only signed one of the nation’s top classes last week, he was able to address most of the Gators’ needs in the process.

UF added five receivers, seven defensive linemen, and four linebackers to address the Gators’ most critical areas heading into the 2013 season. But now it’s time to look ahead.

Where do the Gators need the most help in 2014 and 2015? In what areas should Muschamp concentrate while on the recruiting trail?

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Signing day primer: Florida 

January, 23, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- There are just a couple of short weeks remaining until national signing day, and the Florida Gators have met a majority of their recruiting needs. With graduation, transfers and players leaving for the NFL draft, there are a few areas Florida head coach Will Muschamp would still like to shore up.

Key holes to fill

The Gators lost key personnel along the offensive line, wide receiver, linebacker, running back and secondary and are hoping to replenish their talent with junior college transfers and incoming freshmen.

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Florida weekend recruiting preview 

January, 18, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Though Florida has met a majority of its recruiting needs, the Gators are still hosting a group of important prospects this weekend.


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida lost defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday. Quinn helped orchestrate one of the best defensive line units in the SEC last season and was a big reason Florida has landed commitments from nine defensive players that are ranked in the ESPN 300.

Here is how some of those recruits reacted the new of Quinn's departure:

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GatorNation weekend recruiting recap 

January, 7, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators have had their ups and downs in recruiting this past week. Florida commits Kelvin Taylor, Vernon Hargreaves III, Caleb Brantley, Rod Johnson, Alvin Bailey and Keanu Neal all played for Team Highlight in the Under Armour All-America game on Friday, and all of the Florida commits had a solid week of practice. They capped it off by earning a 16-3 victory over Team Nitro.

Brantley, a four-star defensive tackle, unexpectedly decommitted from Florida on Wednesday and started planning visits to LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma. After speaking with several Florida coaches Friday after the game, Brantley decided to recommit to the Gators.

"I sat and talked to all the coaches except for coach [Will] Muschamp and coach [Dan] Quinn and I realized this is where I want to be," Brantley said. "I went with my heart."

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Florida commits in all-star games 

December, 21, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida Gators will be well represented in this year's all-star games. Thirteen of Florida's 25 verbal commits have been selected to play in postseason games. Here is a closer look at what to look for over the holiday break.

WHAT: Under Armour All-America Game
WHERE: St. Petersburg, Fla.
WHEN: Jan. 4, at 5 p.m. ET

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GatorNation position breakdown: DE 

December, 18, 2012
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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 defensive end. Thursday will be defensive tackle.

DEFENSIVE END

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger, Dominique Easley
Jake Roth/US PresswireFlorida's depth at defensive end will be impacted by the NFL draft decision of junior Dominique Easley.
Two-deep: Dominique Easley is the starter at end and Lerentee McCray is the starter at the buck (end/linebacker hybrid). Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler are the reserves. McCray graduates. Easley is a junior but could leave early for the NFL.

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Florida weekend visitor preview 

December, 6, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida is hosting its annual football banquet this weekend and as usual it will use this time to bring in several recruits. With Florida having a majority of its class already filled, most of the visitors will be committed players or underclassmen.

Quinton Powell
Tom Hauck/ESPNHSFlorida hopes to reaffirm the commitment of linebacker Quinton Powell on his official visit to the school this weekend.
Linebacker commits Quinton Powell (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland) and Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) have been looking around. Powell wants to take visits to USC and Miami (Fla), while McMillian has visited Ohio State recently. Both players will be officially visiting Florida this weekend. Florida will try and reaffirm McMillian's and Powell's commitments.

Powell said he's excited to be around the other Florida commits.

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Muschamp thinks 50-50 balls may decide game
Florida football coach Will Muschamp joined The Paul Finebaum Show to discuss the Gators' game against Alabama.
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