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Florida Defensive Line Spring Preview: Last chance for some veterans

March 10, 2019
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The Florida Gators are preparing for year two under Dan Mullen with significant hype after a 10 win 2018 season with a New Years Six bowl victory over Michigan. The Gators will begin preparations for 2019 with spring practice, which kicks off on March 12. In anticipation, Inside the Gators takes a look at every position; who’s returning, what needs to be proven and more.

Up next is the defensive line. 

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Related: Read the entire spring practice preview series 

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Main Participants 

  • Adam Shuler
  • Antonneous Clayton Sr.
  • Jabari Zuniga
  • Jonathan Greenard 
  • T.J. Slaton
  • Elijah Conliffe
  • Zachary Carter
  • Malik Langham
  • Kyree Campbell
  • Marlon Dunlap
  • Luke Ancrum

Out this spring 

  • None known

Arriving this summer 

  • Jaelin Humphries

Departed

  • CeCe Jefferson (graduated)
  • Jachai Polite (early NFL departure)

Key Question: Who will replace Polite?

This will be one of the biggest questions facing the defense this spring, as Jachai Polite took control of the BUCK position in 2018 and is leaving a huge production hole there as he heads to the NFL. There are options across the board though as the hybrid a linebacker can also fill the position. Polite himself said he saw Jeremiah Moon stepping into the spot. But we could also see defensive coordinator Todd Grantham work Clayton or Langham there this spring. Whoever it may be can take a huge leap forward over the next month, showing off during spring and taking the reps just like Polite did a year ago.   

Bonus Question: Can Slaton and Conliffe provide more depth inside?

The two big men were the shoo-ins for the inside positions last season but it didn’t take long for Kyree Campbell and Adam Shuler to gain control and keep it for the remainder of the year. As it stands, Campbell and Shuler will most likely get the starting nod at nose and tackle respectively, but Slaton and Conliffe need to show they’re just as reliable in the rotation.


Something to Prove: T.J. Slaton and Antonneous Clayton

As we were saying; T.J. Slaton has been a bundle of potential and natural ability his entire Gators career, but he’s never taken that next step. If he still wants to cement himself as a dynamic linemen, he needs to use this season to showcase it…that begins in practice, which is were coaches have mentioned before he falls a little short. This spring is Slaton’s first shot to show them he’s ready to take on a bigger role.

In the same vein is Antonneous Clayton Sr. After playing so sparingly his senior year he was able to redshirt, the former 5-star elected to have one more go and returned. He knows this is his final shot to make a good impression on the league and as such we expect to see a motivated Clayton.

He could surprise: Malik Langham

Malik Langham redshirted his freshman season but has the tools and size to fit right into Grantham’s defense. He’s going to be an exciting one to watch and this spring could be the first step towards a nice Gators career if he comes in with the mindset that he’s perfectly capable of competing against the veterans.  

Keep an eye out for:  Who supplements Zuniga

Jabari Zuniga proved a capable end piece opposite Polite in 2018 and he formed a nice rotation with CeCe Jefferson. In fact it was Zuniga who trailed only Polite with double-digit tackles for loss on the season. Zuniga will need a supplement though like Jefferson and that spot is open for the taking. It will be an important role to fill if Grantham’s defense is going to continue to be aggressive.

Florida Defensive Line Spring Preview: Last chance for some veterans

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