Defensive end will be a strength for Gators
Published: Friday, December 27, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 8:48 p.m.
This is the seventh of a 12-part series breaking down the Florida football roster, looking ahead to 2014 and projecting how the Gators might look at each position:
WHO'S GONE: No one.
WHO'S BACK: Junior Dante Fowler Jr., junior Jonathan Bullard, sophomore Bryan Cox Jr. and sophomore Alex McCalister.
WHO'S NEW: Redshirt freshmen Antonio Riles and Jordan Sherit. Two true freshmen — Taven Bryan and Justus Reed — will be added to the mix this summer if they follow through with their oral commitments and sign with UF in February.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Gators have two emerging stars at the end positions — Fowler and Bullard, who will be entering their second years as full-time starters after seeing considerable playing time as true freshmen two years ago. Bullard is strictly an end who is quick enough to rush the passer and strong enough to be a solid run stopper. Fowler has shown he's got the athletic ability (to go along with excellent size and strength) to play standing up as an outside linebacker and drop into pass coverage in certain situations. Fowler and Bullard give the Gators potentially the best pair of defensive ends in the SEC. Cox gained some valuable playing time behind Bullard as a redshirt freshman this past season and has shown he can give the Gators some quality reps. His playing time figures to increase in UF's rotating system on the defensive front. McCalister is still somewhat undersized at 238 pounds, but he did get some playing time late in the 2013 season and has a chance to see more time as he physically develops. The Gators will work to get their younger ends — Riles and Sherit — ready to contribute this spring, something that would give UF good depth at both positions.
THE SKINNY: The Gators certainly look strong (and quick) on the outside with Fowler and Bullard returning. Fowler became a consistent playmaker this past season as a true sophomore and the coaches expect him to become even more dominant as he continues to build his strength in the weight room. Bullard also should continue to progress as he enters his second season as the full-time starter. Depth is a little bit of a concern, but that could be alleviated if some of the young players come through and show the coaches they are capable of providing some quality minutes in a backup role.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.