Projecting Impact Newcomers on Defense

Bryan Cox Jr.

The Florida Gators will have a lot of new faces in the starting lineup in 2013, but most of those you already know pretty well. Dante Fowler, Jonathan Bullard, Antonio Morrison and a few others played very well a year ago when for most it was their first season. But, as with any year, the Gators will be looking for a handful of freshmen to step up and make a difference. It all starts up front.

Bullard and Fowler will both be starting on opposites ends of the defensive line, but finding guys to fill in behind them will be imperative. One freshman that had a terrific spring and moved right in to the backup role at strong side end is red-shirt freshman Bryan Cox Jr., who stepped it up in the weight program and is up to 260 pounds.

"He has a high motor and is going to help our football team next year," Muschamp said of his unproven end earlier this month. "He can pass rush, can do it inside. (Defensive line coach Brad Lawing) is really pleased with the progress Bryan made through the spring."

Not quite as much approval from the head man, on the other side of the line at the BUCK position Fowler is in charge. Behind them they list SAM linebacker Ronald Powell who is coming back from knee injury but also slated to start at SAM. They would like for someone else to step up and before the spring and late last fall that seemed to be red0shirt freshman Alex McCalister.

"I am pleased with Alex," Muschamp said of the 6-5, 238 pound McCalister. "He comes to camp and verticals close to 40 inches, broad jumps 10 feet, has great lower body explosion. As far as the developmental process he's not as far along as those guys. He is letting his body fill out and getting over 230 pounds and getting more power. I am very pleased with his progress, knowing going into it he would be a red-shirt candidate and a guy that has to continue to develop. He's a guy that can really help us in pass rush and Brad was really excited about Alex as far as some of the things he did."

One other possibility at BUCK for 2013 is true freshman Jordan Sherit. The Tampa Hillsborough pass rushing beast is also recovering from a knee injury, so time will tell when and if he will help this upcoming season.

Do not be surprised to see some noise made from interior lineman Joey Ivie. Ivie graduated early from high school end enrolled on campus in the spring at Florida. He has to fight a little bit with the weight gain, but no one will work harder and play harder than he will. He is about 20 pounds away from making a real difference, but has already added at least that much since his arrival.

The only returning linebacker that didn't see playing a year ago is red-shirt freshman Jeremi Powell. Powell has been fighting putting on weight, but we saw in one play in the end-of-spring scrimmage what he can with his speed when he sacked quarterback Tyler Murphy on one play. Powell will see some playing time in 2013, but still needs to work on that speed.

The Gators added a quartet of linebackers in the 2013 class and three of them were here the entire spring. Unfortunately only one made it through the spring practicing the whole time the other two missed all or most due to injury.

Daniel McMillian played a lot this spring and gained valuable experience. His athletic ability should allow him to play any of the three linebacker positions. While the Gators aren't looking for a freshman to star at linebacker, McMillian, Alex Anzalone, and Matt Rolin will all be thrown into the mix to contribute in the fall.

The fourth linebacker in the class is Jarrad Davis. Davis is a very heady player and physically ready. His intelligence could lead him to see the field as early as the other guys. He is another they will need to try and make some noise to build the depth for 2013.

One red-shirt freshman that is squarely in the mix to start is safety Marcus Maye. Maye missed the start of last season due to injury or he would likely have been on the field. At some point in November, they decided he should just save the year. He is currently in a fight with junior Jabari Gorman for one of the safety posts.

Maye is a very intelligent player as well and has great instincts and very good athletic ability for the position.

Two 2013 class members will also be working hard to get on the field and push the starters. Marcell Harris and Keanu Neal are two high school all-Americans that have prototype athletic ability at safety and have been coached well in high school.

"Marcell Harris and Keanu Neal are both guys we are excited about," Muschamp said. "We will see where they are at on August 1st."

Cornerback is as talented as ever at Florida, but the depth is basically nonexistent. Behind starters Loucheiz Purify and Marcus Roberson are senior Jeremy Brown, junior Cody Riggs, and sophomore Brian Poole… that is it.

Muschamp has decided to take a preemptive strike on the 2014 season by moving incoming freshman Nick Washington from safety to cornerback. Another intelligent kid, he has superior size for the corner position and may work out very well there.

Everyone expects Vernon Hargreaves III to play. The number one corner in America out of high school, Hargreaves seems to have it all.

"His dad is a coach," Muschamp said of his star recruit. "Playing as a freshman a lot of times has to do with maturity. The transition to a new coach, new playbook, a new way of doing things … a lot of times it goes back to maturity. He is a very mature guy that has all the athleticism.

"We will play him at the corner position and nickel as we start out. He will have every opportunity to step on the field early. From an ability standpoint, instincts, toughness… being brought up in the game a little bit he has certainly paid attention as he has grown up. He is a very mature young man, very driven on and off the field, and extremely intelligent."

The red-shirt guys Muschamp already knows a great deal about, he'll get a good look at the new freshmen on August first and it is a big day for the head Gator.

"That is kind of like Christmas to me," he said of the first day of fall camp. "You walk out there and (after recruiting) these guys and (see) all the things they were doing this summer."

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