Florida defense could be full of All-SEC performers

Florida linebacker Jelani Jenkins should benefit from playing under a defensive-minded coach like Will Muschamp.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer/File
Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 11:43 p.m.

Earlier in the week, we did a football fix on Florida's offensive players who have a chance to emerge as All-SEC performers. Today, we present the defensive players.

This is a year where most of the experts are predicting only a scant few UF players will be All-SEC caliber. We're saying there could be many more than that.

We present the Gator defensive players who could emerge as All-SEC contenders in 2011:

*Jaye Howard, defensive tackle. He missed the spring, but he's one of UF's most experienced defensive players and the former defensive end is very quick and athletic for a man his size.

*Sharrif Floyd, defensive tackle. This should surprise no one after the spring he had. He is a big, strong, quick presence in the middle of the line who should make tremendous strides after playing as a true freshman last season.

*Dominique Easley, defensive tackle. With a lightning-quick first step, Easley wreaked havoc on the Florida offensive line throughout the spring. The key with him is attitude. If it's good and he's ready to go all-out on every play, he has a chance to be special.

*Ronald Powell, linebacker/defensive end. He is a strong, explosive athlete who has a chance to make a ton of plays from his hybrid Buck position (combination end/linebacker). He was all over the place making plays in the spring, and he'll have an opportunity to do the same this fall.

*Jelani Jenkins, linebacker. While the Florida defense seemed to lose steam over the course of last season, Jenkins is the one notable young player who seemed to get better as the season went along. He's aggressive, likes to hit, and can really run. In Will Muschamp's linebacker-friendly defense, Jenkins has the talent to develop into a star.

*Matt Elam, strong safety. He had a tremendous spring and his upside is way, way up there. It will be hard to duplicate what Ahmad Black did at this position the past three years, but Elam has the ability to come close.

*Cody Riggs, cornerback. He saw considerable playing time as a true freshman last year and played well. He's UF's quickest corner and has excellent man-to-man cover skills. With Janoris Jenkins gone, the opportunity is there for Riggs to emerge as a top corner. He has the ability.

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