Florida loses a ton of experience and leadership at linebacker with the departure of Brandon Spikes and Ryan Stamper. At the same time, the Gators appear to have significantly upgraded their speed at those three positions.
This linebacker group might be the fastest in the nation.
“It’s definitely a strength. Our guys run really well,” new linebackers coach D.J. Durkin said. “I’d throw them up there with just about anyone (in the nation). The thing we have to clean up is doing things right and being consistent with our footwork and technique, which we’re going to harp on a bunch.”
Florida’s linebackers have been all over the place this spring, speeding from sideline to sideline to make plays.
The fastest linebacker of all appears to be redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins, a five-star recruit a year ago who missed last season due to injury.
“He’s a guy who is going to be on the field as much as possible,” Durkin said. “He has dynamic speed and is an explosive-type player that we need to get out there. He’s making a lot of plays and seeing things really well right now. He’s a guy we’re going to try and have on the field as much as possible.”
Jenkins is seeing practice time at all three linebacker positions. He’s not the only one. The Gators are triple-training many of the linebackers.
“We’re going to make sure we have the best three guys we can get out there,” Durkin said. “I think it’s been a plus because we’ve seen some things that were probably unexpected. Some guys are doing things well at (all three) positions. We’re trying to find the best three.”
One of the best might just turn out to be senior Lorenzo Edwards, a former five-star recruit whose biggest contribution in the past has been on special teams. Edwards, who is playing all three positions, appears to be having a breakout spring.
“Lorenzo has had a great spring. He’s really impressed us,” Durkin said. “He’s making a lot of plays and playing all three spots for us. He provides a lot for our team right now. I haven’t been here for every spring, but the coaches who have, they say it’s the best spring he’s had.”
The Gators have lots of speed and versatility at linebacker. Now, they’re in the process of looking for some leaders in the Spikes and Stamper mold.
“I think that will happen,” Durkin said. “You earn the right to be a vocal leader by the way you play on the field. You’ve got to earn that right. We’ve done well in scrimmages, but we’ll still have a long way to go. But I think we have some definite candidates who can eventually be there.”