Florida Football 3-2-1: Defensive Line Spring Preview

Mar 4, 2020 | 0 comments

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With spring practices only a week away, it’s time to start previewing what the 2020 Gators might look like position-by-position.

Next up is the defensive line. Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction about the group entering the spring.

Three Observations

1. With Jonathan Greenard off to the NFL, an incredible competition at ‘Buck’ will begin this spring. This is one of the positions that the Gators have recruited the best. There will be little to no drop-off from Greenard, the SEC’s leader in sacks in 2019, at least from a talent perspective. Redshirt senior Jeremiah Moon is by far the most experienced candidate, and he put together the most consistent season of his career last year with three sacks and 6.5 tackles-for-loss. Sophomore Mohamoud Diabate finished the year strong, highlighted by his three sacks and a caused fumble against Vanderbilt. The final contender figures to be Brenton Cox, a transfer from Georgia who sat out last season but was rated as a five-star recruit in high school. This should be a fun battle to watch.

2. They will be thin and inexperienced at tackle this spring. Nose tackle Kyree Campbell is the only proven commodity among the six scholarship players at the position. He’s a solid player who does his job and opens up opportunities for others. Tedarrell Slaton will get the first crack at starting alongside him. He played with a more consistent motor toward the end of last season and was more productive, but the prior results of him starting weren’t very good. Elijah Conliffe and Marlon Dunlap haven’t done much, and Jaelin Humphries probably isn’t ready to play yet after his redshirt year. The only newcomer this spring is Lamar Goods, a four-star prospect from Canada who played high school football in Connecticut.

3. Zachary Carter could emerge as a breakout star. When he arrived at UF three years ago, he weighed in the low-200s, and there were legitimate questions about whether he’d ever be big enough to excel at the SEC level. He’s been one of the biggest beneficiaries of Nick Savage. He claims to weigh more than 285 pounds now, and a recent photo of him that went around the internet backed up that claim. A redshirt junior, Carter has a firm grip as the starter at strong-side end and looks to tap into his enormous potential this spring.

Two Questions

1. Can Slaton become the consistent player that they need him to be? He’ll probably never live up to his top-70 billing in high school, but they don’t need him to, either. They just need him to do his job and play hard on every snap like Adam Shuler did the past two seasons. They can’t afford anymore performances from him like the one they got against Kentucky in 2018, when he helped allow more than 300 rushing yards. There’s no proven depth behind him, so they might have to ride-or-die with Slaton.

2. Where are Moon and Conliffe at with their health? Moon missed the final four games of 2019 with a foot injury, while Conliffe missed the entire season with a foot injury. Both players should’ve had enough time to heal, but you never know exactly how long an injury is going to keep someone out. Will they fully participate in the spring, or will they be limited to non-contact drills? They really need Conliffe to practice fully with the lack of depth they have at his position.

One Prediction

1. This will be the most impressive position group during the spring. Though they have to replace Greenard and Jabari Zuniga at end, they’ve got a boatload of talent that should foster great competition. They return one starter in the middle as well as an enormous player who started in the past and finished last season strong. While they lack proven depth inside, they have several talented options that should get better. David Turner has proven himself to be one of the best defensive line coaches in the country and the offensive line is still a major question mark, so this group should shine this spring.

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