When the Gators take the field Friday for the annual Orange and Blue Debut, they’ll be moving on without two of their top pass rushers from last season.
Jonathan Bullard and Alex McCalister leave some pretty big shoes to fill in the trenches, as the duo led the team in sacks this past season with 6.5 each.
After a scrimmage held last Friday, Florida head coach Jim McElwain said he was pleased with the defensive line play.
Caleb Brantley in particular in expected to step up inside on the defensive line. The 6-foot-2, 314-pounder says he’s been working on his speed and quickness this offseason. Last season, Brantley appeared in 13 games and started ten, recording 17 tackles and three sacks.
Rising sophomore CeCe Jefferson will take on a bigger role as well after a stellar freshman campaign. Jefferson, used primarily at defensive end last season, is expected to move inside and contribute more as a three-technique tackle. Despite being hurt for a lot of the spring, Brantley says Jefferson has been putting in good work.
Joey Ivie is another lineman who should be prepared for a lot of snaps this upcoming year. Ivie, who started five games last year and appeared in ten, is coming off a hernia surgery but will be ready to go for the spring game. Bryan Cox is another guy looking to emerge this upcoming season.
One interesting storyline will be which redshirt players will become contributors. Jabari Zuniga may be flying under the radar as a breakout candidate. McElwain referred to Zuniga and fellow redshirt Luke Ancrum as players expected to get a lot of playing time come this fall.
Redshirt junior Jordan Sherit hopes to become a consistent starter at defensive end after starting four games at the position last year. He looks to improve on his numbers after making 28 tackles a season ago.
The defensive line rotation should also include Keivonnis Davis, Khairi Clark, Justus Reed, and Taven Bryan. Early-enrollee Jordan Smith may also have a leg up over the incoming freshmen. Five-star defensive lineman Antonneous Clayton is expected to be at the spring game on a visit from his home state of Georgia.
You can get a peek at the new-look defensive line yourself at the Orange and Blue debut on Friday night at 7 p.m.