Top defender won’t be Easley replaced

Defensive tackle Leon Orr poses with Florida mascot Albert after a game earlier this season. The Gators will be counting on Orr to improve his consistency and playmaking ability next year.

Matt Stamey / Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 27, 2013 at 9:34 p.m.

This is the eighth 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:

Defensive tackles

WHO'S GONE: Dominique Easley and Damien Jacobs.

WHO'S BACK: Senior Darious Cummings, senior Leon Orr and sophomore Joey Ivie.

WHO'S NEW: Redshirt freshman Caleb Brantley and redshirt freshman Jay-nard Bostwick. Khairi Clark will get in the mix in the summer if he follows through with his commitment and signs with the Gators in February.

WHAT'S NEXT: Florida's defensive interior (and defense overall) was never quite the same after dominant tackle Dominique Easley was lost for the season with a knee injury the week of the Kentucky game. The Gators were OK inside, getting solid play from Jacobs, Cummings and Orr, but lacked the dynamic playmaking ability Easley provided. Now, the Gators will head into 2014 without Easley and their second-best tackle, Jacobs. Cummings and Orr both saw a ton of playing time last season and will be expected to elevate their game with experience. Orr seems to have the athletic ability and size to be a playmaker in the middle. But to reach that point, he needs to significantly improve his consistency, something he's been working on since he's been at UF. Despite being somewhat undersized, Ivie eventually worked his way into the playing rotation as a true freshman last season and should be ready to provide quality minutes. The coaches are high on the two freshmen they did redshirt last season — Bostwick and Brantley. At one point midway through the season, the redshirt was almost taken off Brantley due to the injury situation up front. Bostwick and Brantley should be ready now to get into the playing rotation.

THE SKINNY: The Gators are looking for a dominant presence inside, something they've not had since Easley was lost for the year early in the season. UF is looking for someone to step up into the role, possibly Orr or Cummings. With only five scholarship players on the roster heading into the spring, depth is a major concern. As UF found out last season, lack of playmaking ability at the tackle positions can have a negative effect on the entire defense.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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