The Florida Gators linebacker coach Christian Robinson is a lucky man this season. He has a deep and skilled group of athletes that make up his linebacking core. With uncertainty in the season, everyone should be prepared to play in multiple positions and be thrown in at any time.
Last Seasons Linebackers
Last season, Jonathan Greenard and David Reese II controlled the field on defense. Reese led the team in tackles and Greenard was third. Greenard also led the SEC with 9.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Both these key defensive players will be missed. This season, Gator fans should expect to see a lot of faces making plays at the linebacker position.
A rare advantage for the Gators linebacking core is their depth. Players have been in the system for some years now. Adding new guys to the system who are wanting to learn from the veterans helps add to the depth and understanding of the group.
Guys need to have “multiple position flexibility” This fits the Grantham image of defense. These players are no longer a one-trick pony, they can rush, they can play in coverage, and they can move to multiple positions in the defensive schemes. “The more you can do, the better”
Ventrell Miller, who was second to Reese in tackles last season, has done a great job in training camp. Coach says he has shown “Captain like material”. Miller has shed weight and added to his abilities. A great sign of Millers’ development is that he is facing some of the best athletes in the country. Being able to stay on Pitts, arguably the best tight end in the country is very promising. With the opportunity and skillset, Miller’s confidence has blossomed, and he expects to make an even bigger leap from last season.
Mohamoud Diabate is another huge piece to the defense. He explained to the younger guys how he came into Florida only wanting to rush the passer. Things have changed for the better. He preaches how being diverse and being able to move around on defense gives the Gators a much better chance to confuse opposing offenses. Not only being capable of moving around on defense, but willing.
Use Jonathan Greenard as an example. He was a hybrid linebacker that went between defensive end and linebacker. Diabate hopes to make a similar impact.
These were the players mentioned specifically by Coach Robinson but the linebackers go much deeper for returners. There are James Houston IV and Amari Burney who both posted 35+ tackles last season. Burney is listed as an “athlete” and can play a mix of linebacker and safety. He has accepted the challenge to be one of the more versatile players, position-wise, on the defense.
Coach Robinson trusts these guys to develop the younger linebackers that are entering the program.
Fresh Faces at Linebacker
Just as there is depth with the returners, there is depth in the new players as well. Starting with Brenton Cox. A transfer from Georgia, Cox will be rocking the number one jersey and should make an instant impact. To come in as a highly recruited player, he didn’t act like it. He came in wanting to earn the position and playtime. And he most certainly will get that playing time.
Multiple freshmen coming to the Gators that hope to take over the reins as soon as possible. Keep an eye out for players like Derek Wingo, who has kept Coach Robinson alert and on his toes all spring and summer long. There is also true-freshman Jesiah Pierre and Ty’Ron Hopper, who is a red-shirt freshman.
This should be an exciting group of linebackers with multiple defensive schemes and positions switches. “Its next guy up mentality” Motivating competition. Being able to mix in different guys so the players can build chemistry with each other. Coach Robinson has his hands full in the best way possible this season.