Florida Football 3-2-1 Defensive Preview

Aug 31, 2022 | 1 comment


(Photo Courtesy USA Today Sports)


After a lackluster 2021 season that saw Florida go 6-7 and make a coaching change, football is back in the Swamp with a new staff, a new starting quarterback, and new energy for the 2022 season. However, the schedule isn’t favorable with two ranked teams to begin the season. To start, Florida hosts No. 7 Utah, the reigning PAC-12 champion, on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Even with the consistent open portions of fall camp practice, it was tough to make detailed observations due to time constraints and drills being on air. With a new coaching staff, new faces on both sides of the ball, and a top-ten team coming into the Swamp, the 2022 season opener is more compelling than previous years.

Here are three observations, two questions, and one prediction about the defense based on what we’ve heard in press conferences and seen at practice.


 

Three Observations

    1. The depth in the defensive line room is a major red flag. Behind Gervon Dexter Sr., there is little-to-no experience in the defensive line room. Desmond Watson seemed to be an early favorite for early playing time, but he hasn’t shed the weight the coaching staff wanted him to lose. Chris McCellan and Jalen Lee have stepped up, especially as the staff has Dexter Sr. at defensive end, but again there’s barely any experience.

 

    1. Freshmen will see the field early, and often. Linebacker Shemar James, defensive lineman Chris McClellan, corner Devin Moore and safety Kamari Wilson all had a solid performance in fall camp and should see the field early. In fact, Moore and McClellan earned starting reps for at least one scrimmage, partly due to lack of depth or injury issues in their position group, but also due to their performance. There won’t be too many redshirts on the defensive side of the ball in 2022 and expect to see plenty of those above on Saturday.

 

  1. The super seniors are the leaders and bringing them back is extremely beneficial, especially with a top team coming in week one. Those listed above don’t include guys such as Princely Umanmielen, who has been on the team for a few years but hasn’t seen the field too much. Florida’s defense is decently inexperienced in the backup spots. Guys like Trey Dean III and Ventrell Miller coming back for their fifth and sixth seasons are huge for a team that is inexperienced. Those two, along with Brenton Cox Jr. and Dexter, are the clear leaders of the Gator defense, and their leadership is crucial for any success.

 

 Two Questions

    1. Will this defense create more turnovers? The 2020 and 2021 defenses struggled to consistently create turnovers. In 2020, the Gator defense only intercepted nine passes but recovered a solid seven fumbles. In 2021, the Gators again only intercepted nine passes and recovered only four fumbles. Additionally, Florida’s 2021 turnover margin was -0.8, which was good for No. 118 in the country, which was worse than the team’s -0.3 margin in 2020. These numbers are simply not good enough for a team that should consistently be competing for SEC championships and playoff appearances. Will a change in staff help improve those numbers? Only time will tell, but expect whoever wins the turnover battle on Saturday to take home the win.

 

  1. Which inexperienced veteran or redshirt freshmen break out? As stated earlier, inexperience is a big aspect of this defense, especially on the defensive line and the depth at linebacker. That being said, there are plenty of inexperienced veterans and redshirt freshmen with a chance to break out in 2022. Princely Umanmielen, Tyreak Sapp, David Reese, and Lloyd Summerall III come to mind immediately on the defensive line and outside linebacker. In the secondary, most of the veterans are established starters, but returnees in Kamar Wilcoxson, Donovan McMillon, Avery Helm, and Corey Collier Jr. come to mind. Overall, there are plenty of returnees to have a chance to break out, but whoever sees the field early against Utah gives an early indication of who will have a breakout season.

 

One Prediction

  1. Tackling should improve considerably across the board. Multiple defenders during press availabilities talked about tackling drills and how much the new staff has preached discipline in those drills. In fact, inside linebackers coach Jay Bateman made multiple players redo drills after missteps or bad angles. This staff has made discipline a priority, which extends to tackling on defense. It won’t change overnight, but it should be better when the Utes roll into the Swamp.

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