Over the course of the 2016 season, the Florida Gators will have to face some of the best defensive lines in the country. Tennessee, Florida State, and LSU are just a handful of the highly rated defensive lines the Gators will see this year. If things shake out right, Florida could even end up facing Alabama’s monster defense. Sophomore offensive linemen Martez Ivey and Tyler Jordan have seen all of those defenses first-hand, and both have a firm belief that they will not face a tougher challenge this season than the one they go against every single day at practice.
“Very good. They’re really good,” Jordan said of the Gators’ defensive line. “They’re probably the best defensive line I’ve played against out of anybody in the country.” Now, he may be a little biased, but he and the rest of the offensive line should know how good this defensive line is going to be this season better than anybody.
The Gators’ defense had the second highest sack total (40) in the SEC in 2015, only behind Alabama. One thing is almost certain, they are going to get the quarterback a lot this year and are poised to reach that number once again, or even top it. The defensive line will set the tone for the rest of the Florida defense this season.
Florida is led by a group of veterans on the defensive line in Jordan Sherit, Caleb Brantley, Bryan Cox, and Joey Ivie. Sophomore CeCe Jefferson, who had an outstanding freshman campaign last season, is another player who will make a huge impact and bring the versatility to play both inside and outside.
Brantley and Jefferson are elite players and continue to prove that throughout fall camp. Brantley chose to stay after his breakout season last year and is taking it upon himself to anchor the defensive line like Jonathan Bullard did for the Gators.
The defensive line is going to be so tough on opposing offenses this season, because of the depth the Gators have in this group, especially at defensive end. Barring injury, there shouldn’t be any issues keeping players fresh throughout the games. Cox said they are hoping to have eight or nine guys who can come in every game and compete. They are well on their way according to Cox, who said there are probably seven or eight different guys who could do that right now. Young players battling to be in that top eight or nine are Taven Bryan, Khairi Clark, Justus Reed, Keivonnis Davis, Antonneous Clayton, and Jabari Zuniga.
This is a defensive line filled with a lot of leadership, which is something the Gators have been searching for. Leaders like Cox are not only leading on defense, but also leading the team as a whole and helping the young offensive line as they continue to build experience. “Since I play on the left side now I’ve been making it my prerogative to give Fred (Johnson) all I got every single day to get him ready,” said Cox.
The Gators’ offensive line is still growing after allowing more sacks (46) than any team in the country last season, so going up against one of the top defensive lines in the country every day in practice is huge in helping them develop. The offensive and defensive lines are working hard at the line of scrimmage and feeding off of the effort given from the other side in fall camp.
“Our defense pushes us,” said Ivey. “They make us better. That’s going to be the best defense we see all season.”