Having reviewed the offensive skill players in the Florida class of 2013, it is time to look at the linemen, both offensive and defensive. Together they make the loudest statement yet about Florida coach Will Muschamp’s belief that the SEC is a line of scrimmage league, and he is determined to own that line of scrimmage.
Part II: Linemen
TE/OT Trevon Young
This is a guy that everyone knows was a post-signing day surprise (one of two, actually) about whom not much was known to Gator fans because nobody had been following him as a Gators target. In fact, nobody was following him as a football target of any major school. But he is exactly what the staff reported him as when he signed: a jumbo tight end. He may eventually grow into an offensive tackle, or a dual-position guy, but the staff wants him to be a tight end. At 6-foot-5, 274 pounds with a 5.6 40-yard dash, he is exactly what you would expect from a “jumbo tight end.” He is very raw, having only played football for two years, but offensive line coach Tim Davis likes Trevon enough to offer him a scholarship. He is obviously a project but one with the raw materials that Davis and strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman can mold into a contributing player who could bring some extra dimensions to either tight end or tackle. For instance, if he eventually moves to tackle, expect to hear “reporting as a tackle eligible” a lot more often.
OT Trenton Brown
Trenton is a very down to Earth, no-nonsense kind of guy. Also he is a really big guy. It would be more appropriate if his name were John because that old Jimmy Dean classic song “Big John” seems to have been written for him. “At the end of this offensive line stands a big, BIG man: Big Trent.” And he looks to have eaten plenty of Jimmy Dean’s iconic breakfast sausages in his life. But for all of his size, he is a very good athlete. He uses hands extremely well and gets a lot of pancakes — even for a man of his size. The biggest concern that is usually raised about an offensive lineman who is this tall (listed at 6-foot-8, probably a watered down 6-foot-6 to 6-foot-7) is that he will have a high center of gravity, be top heavy and have difficulty against shorter defensive linemen who can manipulate his high-centered frame. But for his height, he gets very good leverage. He maintains a good lean and a nice anchored center of gravity. It is not a lock that he will start his first game this fall, but given that he is an early entrant and will have a full spring to pick up the offense, and he is already making serious strides in getting his weight down to where the staff wants him to play, I believe whether he starts or comes off the bench, he will perform better — perhaps significantly better — than last year’s starting left tackle Xavier Nixon. The competition will be at right tackle, as DJ Humphries will have the starting left tackle spot locked up, and I expect Trenton to run with the twos at the beginning of this season, but he will be getting plenty of reps in the rotation. Muschamp hasn’t beaten Georgia on the field yet, but with Brown, he beat them off the field more than twice. Brown originally signed with Georgia out of high school, the Gators went back into the state of Georgia to take Brown out of Georgia Military Academy, and Trenton was originally committed again to UGA last year before being flipped to Florida. I expect Brown to be one of the many big reasons that Muschamp will be beating the ‘Dawgs on the field, starting with this fall’s contest.
C/OG Cameron Dillard
This is a big guy for a 6-foot-3 frame. He will probably go 300 pounds by this fall. One of many underrated kids in this class, the coaches liked him very early and got his commitment way back in April. He gets a lot of pancakes, locks on and drives defenders to the ground. He is real bulldog with his drive blocking and when he does not make a pancake, he rides his guy downfield to the whistle. Defenders have a very hard time disengaging from him. He pulls well and we will have to see how he does in pass blocking, though he looked good on film and passed the eye test as far as being able to help over the next few years to improve the Gators’ baseline from last season. I look for him to move right into the competition and back up John Harrison at center this fall.
OG Octavius Jackson
One of many severely underrated players in this year’s cohort, Octavius is going to be perhaps the find of the entire class. Muschamp discovered him and got on him over the summer and got his commitment just as Alabama and FSU were starting to follow the trail of breadcrumbs. But he stuck with Florida. Jackson is a very athletic kid, he is excellent pulling from the guard spot with his foot speed and he has the agility and footwork to play in any blocking scheme. But at 6-foot-4 and around 300 pounds, he brings a load too. His Colquitt County High School coach said he has the most upside of any player he’s ever coached – and he sent Cameron Erving to FSU, Ryan Pew to Auburn and Xzavier Ward to UGA as starting offensive lineman, to name just three of many offensive linemen he has sent to play at Division I programs. I think he may be a five-star in three-star clothing.
OT Rod Johnson
This is another really big guy on the line in this class. Coach Will Muschamp is building the Wall of Florida with some very large bricks. He is a “yes sir, no sir” kind of kid, is all business and I can’t wait to see him in the orange and blue to see what he can do. He originally dropped UF in part because he had a relationship with Aubrey Hill who had to resign due to fallout from the Miami recruiting investigation. Tim Davis won him back over and he basically ran away from FSU because of the coaching turnover that was happening there. He and his family credited Coach Davis and University of Florida academics as the deciding factor in choosing the Gators over West Virginia and FSU. We do not have to worry about whether he will be ready to contribute this fall because he will not need to. He will have his shot and he will show some things in the competition to get on the field, but with the returning depth and two experienced transfers from D-I schools and Trenton Brown coming in from the JUCO ranks, Florida has the luxury of redshirting him.
OT Tyler Moore
Moore is yet another very big lineman signed this year, and he is a very physically and mentally mature guy. After signing with Nebraska out of Clearwater, Florida, and playing a year for the Cornhuskers, Moore decided to sit out a year and sign with Florida. He was won over by what he called Muschamp and staff’s relentless work ethic in securing his services, and he said he felt a different level of energy at Florida than at Florida State, his other finalist. Tyler played in 11 games as a true freshman, starting four of them, and was only the tenth true freshman ever to start on the offensive line for the Huskers. His four starts were the most for a true freshman offensive linemen in Nebraska’s rich program history, and he was the first true freshman ever to start on the offensive line in a season opener for UN. The Huskers rushed for over 200 yards in all four of his starts, and over 300 yards in two of them. In his final game at Nebraska — the 2011-12 Capital One Bowl against South Carolina — he faced off against Jadeveon Clowney, who would be the Number 1 pick in the NFL draft if he were eligible to declare yet and controlled him the entire game. So the kid has skills. I expect him to be the starter at right tackle from the first game in the fall.
DT Caleb Brantley
Count me as one who is not concerned about Brantley’s flair for the dramatic and periodic self-involved disposition. If Muschamp did not think he was able to lose the baggage, or wasn’t close enough to be hammered into the right mental state once on campus, coach never would have signed him. He would have let him go after his de-commitment the week of the Under Armour All-American Game, something done for no other reason than to get in on the attention and buzz of the week from the media covering the game. Forgetting all the drama, he looked very good against the top competition in the nation in the UA game, registering at least one sack. Over 100 tackles is a ton for a defensive lineman in high school, which speaks to how active he is on the field when he wants to be. He is 300 pounds but has the quicks of a much lighter guy. He has a really good burst out of his stance with a quick first step. The issue with Caleb is that he seems to play very hard and very well when he is in the spotlight, and plays with a much lower intensity level, almost as if disinterested when he is not. The coaches’ challenge with Brantley will be getting him to play for his teammates on every down and not for whatever other reasons may exist from time to time. If he can leave the drama behind with the recruiting process, he can be a big time player for Florida, both in stuffing the run and getting after the quarterback.
DT Darious “Bear” Cummings
This is another signing story this year that reflects extremely well on Will Muschamp’s recruiting abilities. Darious signed with FSU out of high school with the class of 2010 because he was not enamored of the Urban Meyer staff and was further distanced by Meyer’s retirement and un-retirement in the middle of recruiting crunch time. Coming out of JUCO, Hugh Freeze was able to work his initial magic on Bear, but Muschamp and his crew quickly built a strong relationship and after seeing all of what Florida had to offer on his official visit, bolted Ole Miss for the Gators. Bear is another fireplug addition to the defensive line this year. He didn’t do much in his two years at FSU mostly due to injuries, so we have to go on his junior college accomplishments. And he was darn good at East Mississippi Community College, ranking among the top ten junior college players in the country. He teamed with fellow Gator class of 2013 signee Jarran Reed to anchor an EMCC defense that allowed just 74.2 rushing yards per game. Part of Bear’s success is owed to his having transformed his physique since leaving Astronaut High in Titusville an undersized 245-pound tackle with a ton of upside. He comes to Florida topping 300 pounds and ready to play from Day One. As an early enrollee, he will have a full spring under his belt to learn the defense and get comfortable within the defensive line unit. I believe he will be the X-factor as far as replacing Sharrif Floyd and Omar Hunter in the middle without losing too much production. His classmate Reed will be cast in the same role, but to a lesser extent.
DT Jarran Reed
Another 300-pound defensive tackle from a run-stuffing defensive line at East Mississippi Community College who should be ready to play quality minutes at a high level this fall. His classmate at EMCC and this Florida signing class Darius Cummings will have two years of eligibility remaining at Florida, while Reed will have three. Like Cummings, Reed was also committed to Ole Miss in December but chose Florida over Mississippi and Alabama in part because of his family’s strong desire to have him play much closer to his home in North Carolina. Signing his friend and teammate Cummings helped as well, giving the Gators three EMCC alumni along with Damien Jacobs, who signed last year. Proximity to home also helped Kentucky get into the mix late, boosted as well by their hiring of Reed’s former defensive line coach at EMCC, Jimmy Brumbaugh and the Wildcats’ securing the commitment of Reed’s EMCC roommate Za’Darius Smith. Bear will have the advantage of spring practice that Reed will not, so I expect Jarran’s impact to be the lesser of the two this year, at least in the first half of the season. Reed’s strength last year was stopping the run, although he is powerful enough to penetrate on passing downs. Look for Reed to soak up the coaching and step up his impact by mid-year, however and be a serious force in the middle in his last two years as a Gator.
DT Jay-nard Bostwick
Jay-nard was a big surprise for Gator fans on signing day, but as Andrew Spivey told us in his “Behind the Scenes” debriefing, he was a silent commitment to the coaches for months. Had Gator Nation been aware of this and followed his recruitment as closely as many others who were either publically committed or known to be close to a Gators pledge for a long time, he would have been stirring up a lot of fevered anticipation among fans. He is one of those rare commodities: a physically mature, highly skilled, big high school defensive tackle who has the grades to get into UF. Jay-nard hits with a lot of power and he has very good foot speed for a big guy. He carries a lot of good weight on him. Even with routine tackles, he tackles hard and through the ball carrier, which is exactly what you want to do to wear down running backs and quarterbacks and sap their will throughout the course of a game. He has really good hands inside and gets off his blocks quickly. He may be headed for a redshirt, but if so it will be because of the more experienced JUCO defensive tackles Florida is bringing in this year, not because he won’t be ready to contribute. Unforeseen issues notwithstanding, Bostwick is a guy we are going to hear a lot from on the field in his Gator career.
DE Joey Ivie
I like this kid’s motor a lot. He gets up-field fast and has a great instinctive feel for anticipating the throw on passing downs – he gets his arms up and gets a lot of pass deflections at the line. That is something coaches teach, but he is ahead of the game with his natural instincts. He bring good versatility to the defensive front, playing inside and outside in high school and having the athletic ability to drop into coverage on a running back or tight end. He comes in at 270 pounds, but the coaches want him to play closer to 285-290, so he will be hitting the weight and conditioning program hard in the spring. The plan for this early enrollee is for him to compete in the spring and fall and see if he can earn his way onto the field as a true freshman. With nearly 100 tackles and a dozen sacks as a senior, he is a kid who is very active on the line and makes a lot of plays, so he has a shot to lose his redshirt this year if he can learn the playbook and get up to SEC playing speed in the interim. Joey is also one of those kids who bleeds so much orange and blue that you are just happy to have him in the program for his energy and dedication as example.
DE Antonio Riles
From Archer High in Lawrenceville to Archer Road in Gainesville, Antonio comes to Florida bringing the Gator staff many options. He has a great physique for defensive end and is just a great athlete and prospect. He is another very versatile lineman in this class – playing inside and outside in high school – he is a serious gap plugger in the run defense and he gets up-field fast. When you see a defensive lineman chasing down running quarterbacks from behind in the open field, you know you have a special player. He is also a dominating offensive tackle, so he is another player in this class who can cross-train and be moved around if depth issues necessitate. He follows plays all the way downfield, too, and sideline to sideline. You have to love that kind of every-play tenacity.
DE Jordan Sherit
Jordan has excellent speed coming off the edge. I like the way he tackles the quarterback and running backs to the ground – he wraps ‘em and slaps ‘em down. He also played a very effective tight end in high school, so he is yet another very versatile athlete in this class with whom the coaches can do different things (have you picked up on that theme yet?). Along with his acumen on the line, he is also solid dropping into coverage, benefitting from his time at tight end in understanding the pass route concepts at a higher level. He is also an outstanding student, with a 4.5 GPA, and a member of the honors program, and should continue a long tradition of Gator athletes making regular appearances on the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll. Whereas some coaches talk about signing the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent, Muschamp seems to be genuinely committed to it, just without the constant advertisement of the effort.
In Part III of this series breaking down the Florida signing class of 2013, I will look at the linebackers, defensive backs and lone special teams player. This group includes many of the true gems of the class – which for this class is redundant – including perhaps the best prospect in the entire nation at any position. Until then, remember that every day is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.