Florida Linebacker Spring Preview: Looking for someone to man the middle

Feb 28, 2023 | 1 comment

(Photo courtesy Florida Sports Information)

The Florida Gators are preparing for year two under Billy Napier with plenty of questions to be answered after a disappointing 6-7 2022 season. The Gators will begin preparations for 2023 with spring practice, which kicks off on March 4. In anticipation, Inside the Gators takes a look at every position; who’s returning, what needs to be proven, and more.

Up today are the linebackers. 

Main Participants

  • Derek Wingo (Inside)
  • Shemar James (Inside)
  • Scooby Williams (Inside)
  • Teradja Mitchell (Inside)
  • Jaden Robinson (Inside)
  • Deuce Spurlock (Inside)
  • Mannie Nunnery (Inside/Outside)
  • TJ Searcy (Outside)
  • Antwaun Powell-Ryland Jr. (Outside)
  • Jack Pyburn (Outside)
  • Bryce Capers (Walk-on, Outside)

Out this spring

  • None

Arriving this summer

  • Ahman Covington (Walk-on)


  • Ventrell Miller (Graduation, declared for NFL)
  • Amari Burney (Graduation, declared for NFL)
  • Chief Borders (Transfer to Nebraska)
  • Lloyd Summerall III (Transfer to USF)
  • David Reese (Transfer to California)
  • Diwun Black (Transfer to Temple)
  • Andrew Savaiinaea (Position change to tight end)
  • Brenton Cox Jr. (Dismissed, declared for NFL)

Key Question: Florida lost two starters at inside linebacker. Who will be the early contenders to replace them?

Losing Ventrell Miller and Amari Burney hurts Florida, no matter how many additions are made to the room. It’ll be extremely hard to replace their production and leadership. Billy Napier has options for 2023 with three returnees while also adding three transfers, two of which will likely play inside, and one high school addition to the room in Jaden Robinson. Derek Wingo and Shemar James will likely be the immediate spring starters with Scooby Williams right behind.

Teradja Mitchell comes to Florida after limited playing time at Ohio State and will be a stepping stone in his final year of eligibility. He’ll provide veteran leadership as young newcomers Deuce Spurlock and Robinson continue to develop. That being said, Wingo and James are pretty much guaranteed playing time. Out of the other four, who will make a name for themselves in spring?

Bonus Question: Who’s going to back up Powell-Ryland Jr.?

After Brenton Cox Jr.’s dismissal, Antwaun Powell-Ryland Jr. shot out of a cannon with his production and will look to do much of the same as he enters his first season as a full-time starter. Who’s going to back him up after Lloyd Summerall III’s, David Reese’s, and Chief Border’s individual transfers? Jack Pyburn returns after redshirting in 2022 while four-star TJ Searcy joins the roster as an early enrollee. Mannie Nunnery, who could play either inside or outside, could also fight for playing time behind Powell-Ryland Jr. after spending most of his career at Houston on special teams. The common theme between the three is each lack serious playing time at the position.

Something to Prove: Derek Wingo
With a plethora of departures, Wingo suddenly becomes the most experienced inside backer in the room and will likely be the “starter” on the unofficial spring depth chart as he started the final two games of 2022. That being said, he’ll have plenty to prove after being a reserve his first three years and as he looks to replace Miller and Burney’s production.

He could surprise: Mannie Nunnery
To say Nunnery’s addition to the roster is important would be an understatement. A special teams ace at Houston, Nunnery led the nation with two blocked punts and three blocked kicks in 2021. He expanded his role in 2022 with more time at inside linebacker and showed promising coverage skills. However, Florida has plenty of depth at inside backer, and he could move outside. However, his versatility to play inside and outside as well as special teams could mean consistent playing time. For now, don’t sleep on Nunnery as he gets familiarized with the defense under Austin Armstrong.

Keep an eye out for: Teradja Mitchell
The Ohio State transfer comes to Florida looking to rejuvenate his career in his last season of eligibility. A hamstring injury limited Mitchell in 2022 after recording 44 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss in 2021. With competition at the position, at least behind James and Wingo, a strong spring for Mitchell could mean a starting position by the time fall rolls around. For now, keep an eye on his mobility as he’s recovered from his hamstring injury and which linebacker he teams up with in drills (starters usually lined up with each other, followed by their backups).

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