Utah defensive end Jonah Elliss (83) strips the ball from Florida running back Montrell Johnson Jr. (2) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

UF Coach Jay Bateman Looks to Rebuild Linebacker Room

The Florida sunshine showed its might Tuesday as the Gators concluded their 12th spring football practice. Florida is nearing the final stretch of spring camp as the heat was imminent at Sanders Practice Fields. Players quenched their thirst continuously as they completed drills during media viewing period.

Head coach Billy Napier maintains the Gators search for a new play caller offensively but, newly appointed defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong will also be on the hunt. Normally, the linebackers are responsible of initiating plays to defenders. They are universally regarded as the quarterback of the defense.

However, since the departure of Ventrell Miller and Amari Burney, Florida will look to reload in the linebacker group.

The two veterans in Ventrell Miller and Amari urney became vital leaders for the Gators last season. The two combined for over 50 total starts at the linebacker positions. Miller became Florida’s defensive play caller and replacing him will not be an easy task said linebacker coach Jay Bateman Tuesday.

Gators Reload at Linebacker

Under Napier, Bateman will enter his second season overseeing the inside linebackers. The former North Carolina co-defensive coordinator mentioned he is pleased with the progress the group has shown thus far. He said sophomore weak side backer Shemar James will now look to take more of leadership role this upcoming.

In his freshman season, James appeared in all 13 games, making four starts alongside Miller and Burney. The former four-star recruit ended the season with 47 total tackles and two sacks before receiving Freshman All-SEC honors.

Alongside James, Bateman says the Gators were in need in adding more experience heading into the offseason.

So, the transfer portal became a key focus to fill that need. The Orange and Blue brought in three transfers and Bateman mentioned Tuesday the strategy once players became available.

Transfer Teredja Mitchell is slated to make a significant impact on the defensive side of the ball this season. The middle linebacker was named team captain by his Ohio State Buckeyes teammates in 2021, playing in 39 games in four seasons.

For the majority of camp, Mitchell showed limited participation but the graduate transfer returned to the practice field Tuesday said Bateman.

Still, junior backer Derek Wingo remained with a non-contact jersey during media viewing period as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery. Now, with the absence of Wingo and Mitchell this provided opportunities for other guys to step up.

Luckily, redshirt Scooby Williams, Mannie Nunnery and freshman Jaden Robinson received high praises from Bateman after Tuesday’s practice. Bateman is pleased with the progress of some of the guys with the immense reps they have seen.

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