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  • Dante Fowler hits Arkansas QB Brandon Allen from behind in Florida's 2013 win over Arkansas / Gator Country Photo by David Bowie

Making the pass
rush relevant again

Written by Daniel Thompson, February 24, 2014, 0 Comments,
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The Florida Gators enter the 2014 spring football season looking to answer quite a few questions:  How will new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper help improve the Gators horrendous offensive output over the past seasons? How will Jeff Driskel handle returning from a broken leg? How will new offensive line coach Mike Summers help improve the Gators porous offensive line? How will the Gators replace three cornerbacks? And how can Florida improve their defensive pass rush?

Florida hopes the answer to that last question comes quickly, even though they lost leading sacker Ronald Powell to the NFL Draft.

Florida has historically had a strong pass of the past seven years getting to and sacking the quarterback, but had a big drop-off during the 2013 year.

Sacks 

With the loss of Ronald Powell (4.0 sacks), Loucheiz Purifoy (2.0 sacks), and Cody Riggs (1.5 sacks), the Gators will only have 61% of their sacks from the 2013 season back for next season and have very few proven pass rushers.

Of those on the 2014 roster, only the following have career sacks.

 

 

Name

2013 Sacks

Total Career Sacks

Dante Fowler, Jr.

3.5

6.0

Leon Orr

2.5

3.5

Bryan Cox, Jr.

2.0

2.0

Jonathan Bullard

1.5

3.0

Neiron Ball

1.0

1.0

Darious Cummings

1.0

1.0

Michael Taylor

0.0

1.0

Further, the numbers were rather pedestrian in tackles for loss.

 TFL

Name

2013 Tackles for Loss

Career Tackles for Loss

Dante Fowler, Jr.

10.5

19.0

Leon Orr

4.5

9.0

Michael Taylor

3.5

9.5

Darious Cummings

3.0

3.0

Jonathan Bullard

2.5

7.5

Jabari Gorman

2.5

2.5

Bryan Cox, Jr.

2.0

2.0

Jarrad Davis

2.0

2.0

Brian Poole

2.0

2.0

Neiron Ball

1.5

2.0

Marcus Maye

1.0

1.0

Antonio Morrison

1.0

2.0

Obviously, the numbers look bleak, on paper at least. The Gators will need their veterans and new comers to step-up. Let’s look how the Gators can improve their pass rush and become a formidable force in 2014.

A lot of responsibility will fall on junior Dante Fowler Jr. to lead the Gators pass rush. During the 2013 season, Fowler split much of his time with Ronald Powell at the BUCK position, playing when the Gators wanted a down lineman, rather than a stand-up defensive end/linebacker hybrid with Ronald Powell. Fowler showcased throughout the year that he could get to the quarterback and be disruptive, and while he garnered only one quarterback hurry, he led the team in tackles for loss (10.5) and has 10 more tackles for loss than anyone else on the team after only two seasons.

In 2013, we saw Fowler grow as a player quite a bit. He improved his quickness off the ball and his ability to adapt to blocking schemes.

 

While Fowler steps into the role of leading pass rusher, others will needed to step-up, most notably Jonathan Bullard, who is entering his junior year.

Bullard has 3.0 career sacks and 7.5 career tackles of loss, but needs to move into a bigger role next year getting into the backfield. Bullard has displayed good penetration ability, but has not been able to put it all together to get the statistics the Gators will need. Bullard is a bigger body than Fowler and not as quick, but still has the opportunity to be a big player for Florida. He needs to improve his ability to get off the block and wrap-up the player in the backfield.

Further, the Gators will need to see an improved middle of the line. With the loss of Dominique Easley for the season after the third game, Florida struggled getting production out of any of their defensive tackles. The Gators only return 4.0 total sacks and 12.0 tackles for loss, and will rely on seniors Leon Orr and Darious Cummings to lead the middle. But do not be surprised if the Gators receive production out of redshirt freshmen Jay-nard Bostwick and Caleb Brantley. Both Bostwick and Brantley have the physical stature and displayed incredible ability in high school to get to the quarterback and cause disruption. Bostwick, as a high school senior, had 73 total tackles and seven tackles for loss, although he was much more disruptive than those stats may lead you to believe. Brantley also had great numbers as a high school senior with 94 tackles, five sacks, and four tackles for loss. The only way the Gators can become a better pass-rushing front is with a big improvement from their interior linemen.

Finally, we all know that the rush does not end on the defensive line, but requires a strong performance from the linebacking corp. Only two Gator linebackers (Ball and Taylor) have sacks in their careers and only 19.5 total tackles for loss return for 2014 Gators from all of their linebackers. Neiron Ball will be relied upon to become the edge pass rusher from the linebacking group, as he will replace most of Ronald Powell’s responsibilities from a linebacking perspective. The Gators will need Ball to replace at least part of Powell’s four sacks last year and it should be expected from him to have at least a couple of sacks, if not more. Ball showed that he has great speed and agility, but as struggled to get off blocks, especially from offensive linemen. Ball will need to improve his overall strength to become a better rusher from the linebacker position. Taylor will also be expected to be the middle blitzer from the Mike linebacker role. Lastly, the Gators need to see marked improvement from Antonio Morrison. Morrison had very little impact last season from a pass rushing and tackle for loss perspective, and generally, underperformed. The Gators need Morrison to showcase his speed and ability to lay the big hit, in order to become an elite rushing team. With only one sack last year from the true linebacking corp, the only way the Gators can become a feared attack is with Ball, Taylor and Morrison drastically improving their ability to get into the backfield and make plays.

The Gators have the players, the ability, and the coaching to become an elite rushing force again, but need those players with the ability to step-up to the play. With a loss of 39% of their sacks from last season and 40% of their tackles for lost from last season’s players that have departed, who will step-up?

Daniel Thompson

About Daniel Thompson

Dan Thompson is a 2010 graduate of the University Florida, graduating with a degree in Economics and a degree in Political Science. During this time at UF, Dan worked three years for the Florida Gator Football team as a recruiting ambassador. Dan dealt daily with prospects, NCAA guidelines, and coaching staff. Dan was also involved in Florida Blue Key, Student Government and Greek Life. Currently, Dan works as an Executive Head Hunter for a Tampa-based company. Dan enjoys golfing, country music, gin, travel, oysters, and a medium-rare steak. Dan has previously covered the Gators extensively on BourbonMeyer.com; on Twitter @DK_Thompson; and as the administrator of TheGatorsDaily.com.

http://www.gatorcountry.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Fowler_Dante_Florida_Gator_Football_100513_Bowie-150x150.jpg Daniel Thompson FeatureFootball ,,,,,,,,,,,,
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The Florida Gators enter the 2014 spring football season looking to answer quite a few questions:  How will new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper help improve the Gators horrendous offensive output over the past seasons? How will Jeff Driskel handle returning from a broken leg? How will new offensive line coach Mike Summers help improve the Gators porous offensive line? How will the Gators replace three cornerbacks? And how can Florida improve their defensive pass rush?

Florida hopes the answer to that last question comes quickly, even though they lost leading sacker Ronald Powell to the NFL Draft.

Florida has historically had a strong pass of the past seven years getting to and sacking the quarterback, but had a big drop-off during the 2013 year.

Sacks 

With the loss of Ronald Powell (4.0 sacks), Loucheiz Purifoy (2.0 sacks), and Cody Riggs (1.5 sacks), the Gators will only have 61% of their sacks from the 2013 season back for next season and have very few proven pass rushers.

Of those on the 2014 roster, only the following have career sacks.

 

 

Name

2013 Sacks

Total Career Sacks

Dante Fowler, Jr.

3.5

6.0

Leon Orr

2.5

3.5

Bryan Cox, Jr.

2.0

2.0

Jonathan Bullard

1.5

3.0

Neiron Ball

1.0

1.0

Darious Cummings

1.0

1.0

Michael Taylor

0.0

1.0

Further, the numbers were rather pedestrian in tackles for loss.

 TFL

Name

2013 Tackles for Loss

Career Tackles for Loss

Dante Fowler, Jr.

10.5

19.0

Leon Orr

4.5

9.0

Michael Taylor

3.5

9.5

Darious Cummings

3.0

3.0

Jonathan Bullard

2.5

7.5

Jabari Gorman

2.5

2.5

Bryan Cox, Jr.

2.0

2.0

Jarrad Davis

2.0

2.0

Brian Poole

2.0

2.0

Neiron Ball

1.5

2.0

Marcus Maye

1.0

1.0

Antonio Morrison

1.0

2.0

Obviously, the numbers look bleak, on paper at least. The Gators will need their veterans and new comers to step-up. Let’s look how the Gators can improve their pass rush and become a formidable force in 2014.

A lot of responsibility will fall on junior Dante Fowler Jr. to lead the Gators pass rush. During the 2013 season, Fowler split much of his time with Ronald Powell at the BUCK position, playing when the Gators wanted a down lineman, rather than a stand-up defensive end/linebacker hybrid with Ronald Powell. Fowler showcased throughout the year that he could get to the quarterback and be disruptive, and while he garnered only one quarterback hurry, he led the team in tackles for loss (10.5) and has 10 more tackles for loss than anyone else on the team after only two seasons.

In 2013, we saw Fowler grow as a player quite a bit. He improved his quickness off the ball and his ability to adapt to blocking schemes.

 

While Fowler steps into the role of leading pass rusher, others will needed to step-up, most notably Jonathan Bullard, who is entering his junior year.

Bullard has 3.0 career sacks and 7.5 career tackles of loss, but needs to move into a bigger role next year getting into the backfield. Bullard has displayed good penetration ability, but has not been able to put it all together to get the statistics the Gators will need. Bullard is a bigger body than Fowler and not as quick, but still has the opportunity to be a big player for Florida. He needs to improve his ability to get off the block and wrap-up the player in the backfield.

Further, the Gators will need to see an improved middle of the line. With the loss of Dominique Easley for the season after the third game, Florida struggled getting production out of any of their defensive tackles. The Gators only return 4.0 total sacks and 12.0 tackles for loss, and will rely on seniors Leon Orr and Darious Cummings to lead the middle. But do not be surprised if the Gators receive production out of redshirt freshmen Jay-nard Bostwick and Caleb Brantley. Both Bostwick and Brantley have the physical stature and displayed incredible ability in high school to get to the quarterback and cause disruption. Bostwick, as a high school senior, had 73 total tackles and seven tackles for loss, although he was much more disruptive than those stats may lead you to believe. Brantley also had great numbers as a high school senior with 94 tackles, five sacks, and four tackles for loss. The only way the Gators can become a better pass-rushing front is with a big improvement from their interior linemen.

Finally, we all know that the rush does not end on the defensive line, but requires a strong performance from the linebacking corp. Only two Gator linebackers (Ball and Taylor) have sacks in their careers and only 19.5 total tackles for loss return for 2014 Gators from all of their linebackers. Neiron Ball will be relied upon to become the edge pass rusher from the linebacking group, as he will replace most of Ronald Powell’s responsibilities from a linebacking perspective. The Gators will need Ball to replace at least part of Powell’s four sacks last year and it should be expected from him to have at least a couple of sacks, if not more. Ball showed that he has great speed and agility, but as struggled to get off blocks, especially from offensive linemen. Ball will need to improve his overall strength to become a better rusher from the linebacker position. Taylor will also be expected to be the middle blitzer from the Mike linebacker role. Lastly, the Gators need to see marked improvement from Antonio Morrison. Morrison had very little impact last season from a pass rushing and tackle for loss perspective, and generally, underperformed. The Gators need Morrison to showcase his speed and ability to lay the big hit, in order to become an elite rushing team. With only one sack last year from the true linebacking corp, the only way the Gators can become a feared attack is with Ball, Taylor and Morrison drastically improving their ability to get into the backfield and make plays.

The Gators have the players, the ability, and the coaching to become an elite rushing force again, but need those players with the ability to step-up to the play. With a loss of 39% of their sacks from last season and 40% of their tackles for lost from last season’s players that have departed, who will step-up?

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