Easley returning beefs up DL depth

Well, it finally looks like Florida Gators juniors are done declaring for the draft.

Defensive lineman Dominique Easley confirmed on his Twitter account the he plans to return for his senior season. He tweeted it Monday night during a cluster of rapid-fire tweets about the BCS National Championship game, which Alabama dominated en route to a 42-14 win against Notre Dame.

“I’m comin back for my senior season we gotta get where we need to get,” Easley tweeted from his @MR_ChUcKIE_2 account.

That means the Gators lost four of the five juniors that were strong possibilities to be drafted. Safety Matt Elam, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, linebacker Jelani Jenkins and tight end Jordan Reed have all announced their intentions to declare for the 2013 NFL Draft since the Gators 33-23 loss against Louisville in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans last Wednesday.

The deadline for players to declare for the draft is Dec. 15, but they can still withdraw their names by Jan. 18. In other words, if a player like Jenkins doesn’t like his feedback over the next week, he can change his mind.

Easley’s return certainly is welcomed as the Gators are going to be thin on the defensive line. He is listed as a defensive end but can move inside to play tackle, which he did for a few snaps during the Sugar Bowl when Floyd was sidelined with a minor injury before returning.

Looking at the depth chart, Easley may be asked to move inside. The Gators will enter spring practices with 12 defensive linemen on scholarship, with only two of those — not counting Easley — listed as interior defensive linemen.

Damien Jacobs and Leon Orr are defensive tackles while Ronald Powell, Dante Fowler, Jonathan Bullard, Gideon Ajagbe, Bryan Cox Jr., Quinteze Williams and early enrollees Darious Cummings and Joey Ivie at defensive end.

Cummings is a junior college transfer and Ivie also appears college-ready already, so they could help immediately after learning the scheme during spring practices.

Another defensive lineman that could aid depth is Kedric Johnson, who did not play this season. The 6-4, 237-pound defensive end dislocated his knee in fall practices after playing in 12 games in 2011, only missing the Gator Bowl due to an injury.

A few 2013 verbal commitments will help shore up depth next fall in defensive ends Jordan Sherit and defensive tackle Caleb Brantley as well.

Because of the lack of depth inside, Brantley could earn himself significant snaps as a true freshman as long as he arrives on campus with the same drive and focus that got Fowler and Bullard on the field this season.

Florida has 26 verbal commitments, but GatorCountry.com recruiting analyst Andrew Spivey believes the Gators could sign “30-31” in this class, counting transfer Tyler Moore.

Look for the Gators possibly to add two more interior defensive linemen in the remaining spots as the coaching staff certainly has the ability to tell recruits there’s an opportunity for early playing time.

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Mike Capshaw brings a wealth of experience to the Gator Country team. He’s been overseeing all editorial aspects of GatorCountry.com and Gator Country magazine by managing our team of staffers, interns and freelancers. He is now moving into a bigger role as a reporter by covering the football and basketball beats as well as providing coverage of all sports on campus. Mike’s 15 years in the business has included more than six years of covering SEC sports and recruiting at a daily newspaper in Arkansas. He has also helped launch a newspaper, magazines, websites and even a sports talk radio show. Because Mike puts family ahead of his career, he left the place where he was established when his wife received an opportunity to further her career at UF. He took a leap of faith that he could find a job in the Gainesville area and worked for a year at a newspaper group before joining the Gator Country family in November, 2011. Mike has won Florida Press Association awards for Best Sports Game Story and Best Sports Feature Story in the past two years as well as a company-wide award at his former newspaper group that includes some 60 publications, for Excellence in Sports Reporting. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeCapshawGC.