Where are the defensive tackles?


While Florida recruitniks have been in a panic over the fact the Gators signed only two offensive linemen, two defensive linemen, and no defensive tackles, new coach Will Muschamp has said he feels good about both lines of scrimmage, other than a slight concern about a lack of depth.

Well, after breaking down what the UF roster likely will look like in the fall, I can see how Muschamp has a positive vibe about the offensive line. But I’m not seeing it on the defensive line, where the Gators could find itself in a scary situation, especially at defensive tackle.

First, we’ll address the positives:

• Barring a boatload of injuries, the Gators should be fine on the offensive line. They will have 14 scholarship linemen on the roster and four guys who have started games in the past — Jon Halapio, Xavier Nixon, Matt Patchan and James Wilson. Depth is a little bit of a concern, but the Gators have numbers and some experience here — enough of both that there should be no major issues up front, barring injuries.

• On the defensive line, the Gators have two veteran tackles returning (Jaye Howard and Omar Hunter) and three gifted true sophomores who picked up valuable playing experience last season (end Ronald Powell and tackles Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley). Also, ends William Green, Lerentee McCray and Earl Okine have been around for a while and have shown they can play. Another potential positive is the fact the Gators are expected to play a three-man front a great deal, which would lessen the numbers crunch.

Now, to the negative, starting with the offensive line:

• Three of the 12 scholarship offensive linemen on campus this spring (Patchan, Wilson and David Young) have a long history of injuries that have kept them off the field for a large chunk of their careers. Here’s something else to consider: UF’s two incoming freshmen (Tommy Jordan and Trip Thurman) likely are not going to be physically ready to play in the SEC in the fall. That would leave the Gators with only 12 scholarship offensive linemen who are game ready, and that number could drop given the medical history of several players.

• On the defensive line, the Gators are scary thin at defensive tackle. They have only four scholarship tackles — Howard, Hunter, Floyd and Easley — to work with this spring, and that number may not change in the fall because the Gators were shut out at the position in recruiting. The Gators do have some possibilities inside. Okine has played tackle before, and there a chance redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Leon Orr could go back to defensive tackle, the position he played in high school. But there are not a whole lot of options at defensive tackle. The situation is a little better at end, where the Gators will have eight scholarship players in the fall, although two (Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook) will be true freshmen.

Overall, Muschamp says he feels good about both lines of scrimmage. But that could change in a hurry if the Gators are hit with some injuries on the defensive front, especially at tackle, where the numbers simply are not there at the moment. Signing defensive tackles will be priority No. 1 next recruiting season.

Here’s look at the scholarship linemen that will be on the roster in the fall:

Offensive line
Ian Silberman
Chaz Green
Leon Orr
Jon Halapio
Jonotthan Harrison
Kyle Koehne
Xavier Nixon
Matt Patchan
Sam Robey
James Wilson
David Young
Nick Alajajian
Tommy Jordan
Trip Thurman

Defensive line
William Green
Jaye Howard
Omar Hunter
Kedric Johnson
Lerentee McCray
Earl Okine
Dominique Easley
Sharrif Floyd
Ronald Powell
Lynden Trail
Clay Burton
Trip Thurman


  1. Of the offensive linemen listed, scout.com ranked 3 of them as 5 star prospects, and 5 of them as 4 star prospects, in there respective senior years. Of the defensive linemen listed, scout.com ranked 4 of them as 5 star prospects and 4 of them as 4 star prospects. While recruit rankings are not always reliable, I’d bet that most coaches would love to have a group like that to start with.

  2. Thin is in and we are thin no matter what you say. They were thin last yr and inexperienced. Now they will be a little more experienced and still thin. Floyd is a stud, Powell maybe. Hunter is avg at best. Good luck gators hope the NFL staff can out coach everyone else.

  3. So, your not worried at OL where we have 14 players for 5 positions (little less than 3 deep), but you are worried about DL where we have 12 players for 3 or 4 positions (either 3 deep or 4 deep).

    I think 4 good DT’s will be fine. We have DE’s and OL who might could fill in in a pinch. Obvisously, more is better, but I think we will be fine unless we get a real bad case of injuries.

  4. Transitioning to a 3-4 indicates that there are plenty of bodies. But what about the ability of these d-linemen to fit into a 3-4? Do we have enough linebackers? Some of the defensive ends will be asked to stand up as strong side outside LBs, which ones? Do we have a true nose guard?

    The Gators have more than enough bodies for a goal line formation. The O-line will be fine this year and maybe next year, but depth in two years will be a concern.

  5. my hope is it coaching. we did not win line of scrimmage in big games last year & we graduated 9 lineman. incoming recruits will be of no help next year.
    we are thin on off & def so moving players either way hurts. yes patchen would be a great def help but we need him even more on off. i think marin is to be a LB.
    3 – 4 will help def line , but we have same depth problem at LB, so do not see that as overall depth solution. i do look for some depth at TE & FB to move to LB any of them can make the switch.

    it is critical that we be able to stop the run because BAMA, SO CAR, GA, FSU, ETC will run us out of the game.

  6. You left off DE Chris Martin that transferred from Cal last year. He will be slated to be on the defensive line as well as a possibly look at LB but I think he will be at his DE position opposite of Powell. Although I do agree that we are thin, I believe that Muschamp’s first priority right now during his 2012 recruiting will be to scout top JUCO linemen from around the country that would be ready to contribute immediately and/or for depth purposes. With the lack of depth at DT hopefully our LB’s will make-up for it and be able to stop the run wherever they fall short.

  7. gatordad doesn’t have an argument to make, just an unsupported assertion, and a slightly pejorative one at that!

    The truth is that Kevin is right on: we will be just fine unless we suffer from a plague of injuries.

    I don’t how many schools in the country have 3 former 5-star DTs, but i’m guessing those vaunted D-lines at Stanford and TCU don’t have any at all. In fact, I don’t think USCe, Auburn, Ole Miss, Miss. St., Arky, Vandy, Tenn, or Kentucky have any either– that’s most of the SEC. We stack up well against Bama, Georgia, and LSU.


  8. I don’t expect the OL to be very good next year. Out of the 14 listed, I will be kind and say we have 6 and a push. I hope a few surprise us this year. The OL lines performance last year was abysmal. I am just trying to be realistic. I hope players like Patchan make it back and have a heck of a season. The D line needs players like Okine, Green and McCray to step it up, otherwise we could be faced with as little as 5 DLmen ready to compete in the SEC.

  9. Being shut out at DT really hurt us. Our biggest concerns next year regarding recruiting will definetly be DT and LB. Also, losing on the JUCO kid who the MUTTS got really hurt our depth. I hope we stay relatively healthy next year cause we are thin at DT. GO GATORS

  10. On offense NFL teams use 5 regular linemen and only substitute for injuries. So I think that 7 -8 could be OK. On D there is a rotation so perhaps we could use more bodies, but 4 DT and 4 ends should be OK without injuries.

    Now of course I would like to be 3 deep with premo individuals, but that is not realistic.

  11. I think if you give Muschamp & Weis a full year of recruiting with a shallow depth chart at O-Line and D-Line, in about 360 days from today we’re going to have more 4 & 5 star guys than we know what to do with. Why? They’ll be able to whisper those sweet words every high school senior wants to hear: “you could start in the fall”.

    It’ll be raining 5 star defensive tackles. Wait and see.

  12. Last time I commented, it was criticizing RA, but this time I have to speak up in support of his position. You guys are either ignorant or homers to say that 4 DT’s are enough.

    I am VERY pleased with the talent that we have (as RA suggested), but having only 4 is a problem. If you have two injuries (which is very possible, if not probable) then you are down to 1-deep!! No competition, no avoidance of a player who isn’t playing well, no substitutions. That is a BIG problem, such that I will be surprised if the coaches don’t pull someone else in to play DT – either from outside of the program or from another position. Maybe we’ll see someone from the practice squad? Glen Watson or Shawn Schmieder anyone?

  13. Chris Martin is huge. He is more of a traditional 4-3 DE than Powell. I don’t see how he be played as an OLB. I’d love to see Martin & Powell as bookend DE’s in the 4-3 with 3 outstanding DT’s to rotate (Hunter, Easley, Floyd). That would be an indomitable line for the future. Muschamp is a four man front guy. I don’t see a need to deviate with these beasts in camp.

  14. ATL Gator I disagree…remember we are bringing back some very good potential on offense (Hammond, Mike G., Debose, and not to forget our stellar incoming QB group). Our defense is also looking good when you think about the players coming back (Jenkins, Matt E., Powell, Floyd) they had a chance to get some experience and slow the game down last year. So next year we should see another defense forcing turnovers. Really unless we DO get a case of weird injuries (which is not uncommon for us) then we should worry. I see no more than a 3 loss Gator team next year. (Big Call) Go Gators!!

  15. I just don’t see the concern, especially assuming an improvement in coaching on both lines of scrimmage. Would it have been better to bring in a couple more highly rated prospects on both sides of the ball? Sure. But painting hypothetical scenarios about lots of injuries is just speculating for speculation’s sake. Any team is going to see their season go south if they have a raft of injuries.

    Frankly, I suspect our O-line injury rate is going to decline with a return to a pro style offense. I’ve always suspected that the wider O-line splits in the spread and some of the pulling schemes might contribute to a higher injury rate. B because of the angles created for the D-linemen. But maybe that’s just my speculation.

  16. I honestly feel like next year will be a #1 class. And with daz gone and a whole new offensive game in place, we should be able to score a few points for a change and not be hanging by a thread in the 4th qtr doing dive plays on 3rd and long. We are a little light on depth but I say we will be fine for a year as long as nothing drastic happens. It will be fun to watch it all transition! Go Gators!

  17. Is it time now to look at some JUCO lineman who have already proven themselves on this collegiate level? And what about some good under the radar players from smaller high schools who might not have gotten all of the mega star rankings but could really contribute to the team? Any high school coaches want to give some strong recommendations? Now would be a perfect time to send those highlight tapes to the UF football coaching staff! With as many high schools as we have in the ‘ol USA I can’t believe that they’re aren’t some quality guys with a lot of potential who are under the radar sans Kerwin Bell!

  18. Good point, Paul. Adding to the conversation, injury is a concern for every team. However, we must realize that most of these young men will make tremendous strides during the off-season. UF’s strength and conditioning program and facilities are second to none. Our linemen will make gains in size, strength, and speed. Perhaps some of our young DEs will gain enough size to make important, albeit limited contributions to our interior line. The offseason will also allow our young linebackers to become bigger, faster, and stronger as well. My 16 year old son is 5’8″, weighs 165 lbs, and bench presses 365. If he can achieve this at a stone-age Thomson (GA) high school weight program, I am certain our athletes will make tremendous improvement at Florida’s premier facilities. Right now it is in the hands of our strenth coaches, and the attitudes of the players themselves. How hungry is the team after experiencing the struggles of last year? I guess we will find out soon.

  19. GO GATORS!
    we will win 8 games vs the vandy’s,& vols, on our schedule!
    Question is can we beat the FSU / GA / SO CAR type teams?
    CAN WE STOP THE RUN? stopping the BAMA richardsons / USC GUY (FORGOT HIS NAME), FSU wilder (should have been a gator), GA crowell is the question? if not we lose! throw in new system 1st year problem & high expectations seems unfair.
    next year recruiting problem could look like this. UF coming off two 8 win seasons. FSU & BAMA looking like natl contenders. UM recruiting/keeping sou fla players again. clemson & ohio st state continuing to steal 5 big time guys a year. current UF coaches do not have state on fla recruiting history. UM magic is gone.
    or it could be WM & staff sell recruits on playing time, UF HX, pro system & coaches and through hard work they get top 3 class including 8 solid lineman, 4 LB, 2 S,


    if so he may be DE or he could be that big (huge) middle LB that we have not had in a long time.
    i see powell / hunter / floyd / martin / jenkins / bostic as solid starters it is the next 8-10 that scare me.

    AGAIN IT IS THE halapio / harrison / robey / alajaian / siberman / green / koehne that may not be ready for the BAMA / LSU / FSU / SO CAR / GA GAMES