Grading the Gators: Defensive report card

My progress reports were rarely ever good in school, so now I get the satisfaction of grading others. Nick took the offense and I took the defense. Every triplet of games we’ll evaluate where Florida stands.

Defensive line

Grade: A

Teacher’s pet: Dominique Easley

I could have picked anyone as teacher’s pet to be completely honest with you, but Easley gets the apple for Florida’s first three games. He slid inside at the beginning of this season and has not missed a beat. He actually seems more effective inside than he was outside because he’s so quick off the ball, it’s just a horrible day at the office for interior linemen. Dante Fowler has found his groove after not doing much of anything in the first two games; in the Tennessee game alone he had three tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a sack. As a unit they get a consistent push and oftentimes force the line of scrimmage backwards. Florida’s eight hurries in the Toledo game alone was good enough to be a quarter of the number they had all season in 2012.


Grade: A

Teacher’s pet: Antonio Morrison

He’s only played in two of Florida’s three games but his total tackles — 13, solo tackles –11, and tackles per game –6.5, are all good enough to lead the team in each category and that’s impressive. Ronald Powell is also back in a big way, his athleticism is at a level that makes you wonder if he ever had knee troubles at all. The reckless abandon he plays with is nice to see from somebody who has been through all he has endured during his college career and his unbelievable pursuit angles are always textbook. Neiron Ball has been sneaky good. You might not see it on the stat sheet, but you notice it when you look on tape and see how comfortable Ball is as an inside linebacker. His run fits are decent but he really shines in erasing yards after the catch and pass coverage in general. His speed as an outside linebacker by trade is a trait most inside linebackers don’t have, he uses it to his advantage, and does it well.

Defensive backs

Grade: B+

Teacher’s pet: Vernon Hargreaves III

I suspect foul play at the University of Florida as it pertains to Hargreaves. We need to inspect his birth certificate, there is simply no way he can be 18 years old. His first two games each yielded interceptions and he got to start in place of Marcus Roberson against Tennessee. On a whole, Hargreaves plays excellent and aggressive pass coverage and has solid recovery speed to cut down space a receiver gains on him while the balls in the air. He also has the ability to play cat and mouse, letting receivers get a step, baiting the quarterbacks to throw at who they think has separation then turning on the jets at the last second. He leads the team in pass break-ups and has played very well rather early in his college career. As a unit though, this secondary hasn’t been tested much with the deep ball. Coming into the season the safety position was an issue at Florida and it proved to be true when Miami’s Phillip Dorsett ran right by Marcus Maye — who had bitten ever so slightly on a play action fake — for a 52-yard touchdown. Loucheiz Purifoy also had a lapse in coverage against Miami when he failed to tackle Miami’s Allen Hurns while on an island thanks to having no safety help over the top. Hurns scampered for 36 yards. Those are a few of the lapses in coverage Florida has had this season, it hasn’t been often but when a unit that’s as talented as Florida has gaffes they stand out. The good news is that Miami is probably the team most capable of giving Florida problems on the backend until they face LSU, so whatever wrinkles exist, they should be ironed out by the time Florida faces a talented receiving duo in Death Valley. I’ll grade that on the next report card.

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Richard Johnson
Richard lives in Gainesville and prides himself in being a bonafide lifelong Alachua County Resident. He attends the University of Florida and is in his third year studying Telecommunications. He isn’t sure how he started loving football being the son of two immigrants that don’t care about the sport, but he has developed a borderline unhealthy obsession with it. In his free time, Richard watches other sports and is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and Tampa Bay Rays. He doesn’t like chocolate, knows Moe’s is better than Chipotle and drinks way too many Arnold Palmers. He also took up golf in the summer of 2012. That pursuit isn’t going well. You can listen to him talk about sports during the Cheapseats radio show on ESPN 850-WRUF or online at Follow him on Twitter at @RagjUF.