Florida’s biggest surprise on defense this spring might just surprise you. It’s been senior defensive end Duke Lemmens, a high-effort, high-energy guy who has been a backup his entire career. If the season started today, the defensive end/linebacker/tackle would be in the starting lineup somewhere.
This spring, Lemmens has been one of UF’s best defensive players.
That’s the word from defensive line coach Dan McCarney.
“I know Duke Lemmens has been the most improved player on my defensive line,” McCarney said. “He’s always been a relentless guy, a good-effort guy. But he’s made more plays this spring than he probably has in his three-year career. He’s turned into a real guy.
“Justin Trattou was much better than Lemmens coming out of the Sugar Bowl. Not so fast any more. I’d have to flip a coin on those two kids. That’s how much (Lemmens) has improved. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
McCarney said he’s also encouraged by the strides redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Earl Okine has made in the past two weeks. McCarney was riding Okine hard early in the spring, trying to draw out his potential. Apparently, it’s started coming out.
“Earl has definitely gotten better,” McCarney said. “He’s definitely improved, and I’m proud of him. He’s got to be in the mix, in my rotation in the fall.”
One player whose potential McCarney is still waiting on is junior defensive end Lerentee McCray, who continues to miss time with injuries.
“He’s been in and out; he’s missed two weeks of practice,” McCarney said. “Until he gets out there and stays on the practice field and improves and shows consistency, there is no way I can trust him. His entire career, he’s been more out of practice than in practice.
“My biggest objective with him, and biggest worry, is he spends more time in the training room than on the practice field. Period. End of story.”
This certainly has been a challenging spring for McCarney, who has been without three of his top defensive tackles (Lawrence Marsh, Brandon Antwine and Terron Sanders). Antwine and Sanders are recovering from knee surgery, while Marsh is rehabbing after having surgery on both hips to repair torn muscles and tendons.
McCarney said Antwine and Sanders will be full-go for the start of fall drills in August. He’s also hopeful Marsh will return.
“I think Marsh will be ready,” McCarney said. “He had surgery on both hips, and that’s not easy to come back from, but he’s ahead of schedule. He should be ready to go (in August).”