The battle at defensive end


Clockwise from top left: Justin Trattou, Duke Lemmens, William Green, Lerentee McCray, Earl Okine, Kedric Johnson, Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley.

Published: Monday, June 28, 2010 at 2:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 28, 2010 at 2:47 p.m.

With all due respect to Florida's wide receivers and cornerbacks, the battle for playing time at defensive end will be one of the most exciting storylines of the summer.

Since Urban Meyer's arrival, one of Florida's biggest defensive strengths has been its defensive ends. Players like Carlos Dunlap, Derrick Harvey, Jermaine Cunningham and Jarvis Moss have made some of the biggest defensive plays in recent Gator memory and have been tabbed as some of the most intimidating and talented linemen in the SEC.

But Harvey and Moss are long gone, and Dunlap and Cunningham are getting ready for their first seasons in the NFL.

To maintain their stature, Florida's coaches must train a relatively new and less experienced group of linemen.

Justin Trattou — Making things easier for the Gators is the fact that senior captain Justin Trattou is back. He has shown during his career that while he might not possess the elite athleticism of past Gator ends, he's got just as much drive and heart (if not more). Trattou recorded 17 total tackles, including two sacks, recovered a fumble and had an interception in 2009.

Duke Lemmens — The senior came out of spring practice as the starter opposite Trattou, but it'll be a chore for him to keep that spot after the summer. He's only got 23 tackles and two sacks in his career and while he's shown that he's got a deep love for the game, his skill level isn't on par with elite SEC linemen. He'll play, but unless he's lights out this summer, he'll continue to contribute as a reserve.

William Green — Two years ago, Green appeared to be one of the most interesting up-and-comers on Florida's roster. He was a special teams star and made a few highlight plays on defense. He recorded five more tackles in 2009 and got even more experience. He's one of the most athletic defensive ends at Florida and should take full advantage of the opportunity to take a starting spot this summer.

Lerentee McCray — He made the move from linebacker to defensive end last season but has yet to have a major impact at Florida. The junior certainly has the athleticism. A little more work in his new position should help him mount a challenge this summer.

Earl Okine — He came in as an end, but moved to the middle. Now, he's back outside. The redshirt sophomore has been a project since his arrival but made some crucial strides this spring. He can't afford a letdown this summer if he wants to really compete for playing time this fall.

Kedric Johnson — The redshirt freshman was undersized during his first season and had to sit out. He's athletic enough to compete for playing time but must continue to keep the weight on.

Ronald Powell — He could be ready to play as soon as summer practice begins with his talent and athleticism. The incoming freshman has all the tools to be a star at Florida for years to come, but no matter how gifted a youngster is, playing in the SEC is no picnic. With all the hype, he'll be expected to contribute early and the thought is that he'll be in the thick of it for a starting spot.

Lynden Trail — He's not as dominating as Powell, but he's got great speed and athleticism. The true freshman could end up being a major contributor on special teams, a la William Green, but don't count out his work ethic. He could earn decent playing time this season.

Dominique Easley — He played inside and out in high school and arrives at Florida with the opportunity to play both. He could start and stay inside, but if he gets the opportunity to compete at end, he'll make a major run at the open position. Some say he might have a faster first step off the line than Powell.

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