Mike Peterson details edge rushers, potential replacements for Umanmielen

Edge coach Mike Peterson is one of just three original assistant coaches left on Florida’s staff since Billy Napier’s inaugural season in 2022 and the only defensive coach remaining from year one.

Along with the staff, Florida’s roster has seen quite the turnover in recent years due to the relevance of the transfer portal, especially at the edge position. Since Peterson arrived in Gainesville in 2022, the Gators have lost edges Antwuan Powell, Lloyd Summerall, Diwun Black, David Reese, Chief Borders, and Princely Umanmielen to the transfer portal.

“Definitely more than I’m used to,” Peterson said on Florida’s roster turnover. “That’s why the process of the type of guys that you bring in is to me so crucial. The first thing is coachable – that’s the first thing if a guy is coachable and loves football, sign him up, I want him, we’ll fit in and get along really, really well. That’s where we’re at with college football – you adapt. We’re not going to be a team to gripe about this or gripe about that. I just put my head down and go to work.”

Florida is searching for a replacement for Umanmielen, who was the 2nd highest graded defender in 2023 and highest graded defensive lineman, according to Pro Football Focus.

“I got a lot of guys, man, and I’m excited about them,” Peterson said on the edge rushers stepping up following Umanmielen’s departure. “I got some young ones, I got some old ones that was here last year. So, I’m excited about the group as a whole.”

Sophomore TJ Searcy is one that could fill that role. The Georgia native earned Freshman All-SEC Honors after recording 26 tackles (9 solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, two QB hurries, and a forced fumble in 2023. Searcy did not miss a tackle a season ago and graded as Florida’s best tackler, according to PFF.

“A guy that could do it all,” Peterson said on Searcy. “You know, he can play the run, he can rush the passer, he can drop into coverage. Complete player, and a great kid also. That’s probably the biggest thing he has going for him.”

 Redshirt junior Justus Boone is currently limited in spring practice after suffering a season ending injury before week one in 2023. The Sumter High School product has just 271 collegiate snaps under his belt but has high praise from just about everyone in the building.

 “Boone could do it all. So if I say TJ is the athletic guy, Boone is the leader of the group,” Peterson said on Boone. “He’s the guy that’s been around. I didn’t recruit him here but I recruited him when I was at another place. So, me and him had a relationship before I got here, which is a huge thing. You know, I could coach him hard. Boone is the guy when the group is looking a little slow, a little sluggish, I just get on Boone, and Boone kind of gets the group right. So, he’s definitely the leader of the group, and you know what he can do on the field. Right now, he’s going through probably the hardest thing in football. I tell all the guys, you know, ‘Injury, it’s a process coming back. You want to be ready tomorrow, but it doesn’t work that way. You got to do what you’re supposed to do in the training room and get yourself back.’ “

 Florida did bring in one transfer at the position this offseason: George Gumbs Jr. Transferring from Northern Illinois, Gumbs Jr. played in 12 games and started the last seven consecutive at defensive end, finishing with 32 total tackles (15), 6.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, three quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles in his first season on defense.

 “I’m an old car guy, man, Gumbs is like that new car I got in the garage, I’m just kind of fixing up and nobody knows about it,” Peterson said on Gumbs.

 Gumbs Jr. has only played defense for one season, so he’s quite raw as one would expect. But the staff is high on his athletic ability and believes he has a future at the position.

 “He can run. He’s stronger than I thought coming in,” Peterson said on Gumbs Jr. “He’s very, very athletic. He’s a guy that’s soaking up everything I give him. I can tell him to jump and touch the ceiling and he’s going to try to do it. So he’s soaking in everything I’m telling him. He’s another meeting room rat, loves to get in the meeting room, watch tape, study the game. So I’m excited about what I’m seeing from Gumbs.”

 Peterson is big on bringing in coachable players; that box was checked during the recruitment process of George Gumbs Jr.

 “That’s the good thing about it. I’m not having to break some bad habits and the first thing about Gumbs during the whole process – is he coachable? I do my homework. I did my homework – can I coach this guy, can I get on this guy. That checked off. So, it’s been great,” Peterson said.

 Despite losing a bunch of edge rushers to the transfer portal over the years, Florida hasn’t needed to add much through the portal because of how well they have fared in high school recruiting at the position.

 Five-star edge LJ McCray is on campus and going through his first spring camp in Gainesville and could see a significant role as a true freshman in 2024.

 “Same guy I recruited, that’s the same guy I’m getting on the field. He’s a worker, I’ll tell you that,” Peterson said on early impressions of LJ McCray. “You know, the guy, he’s meeting a lot. Early in the process, it was every night, he was up there and we was getting it. As a coach, that’s exciting. When you’ve got a young guy to come in and wants to be great, you know what I mean? A lot of times you just have to, you know, de-recruit them guys, you know, break them and let them know the recruitment process is over. But you could tell his upbringing, Mom and Dad, during the process they did a really, really good job with him.”

 Mike Peterson and the Gators’ defense will look to turn around what has been a dreadful last few years for the Orange and Blue. Peterson likes what he’s seeing from his squad six practices into spring camp.

 “It’s coming together,” Peterson said on all three levels of the defense. “I think the biggest thing about it, they’re good kids, man. They’re all good kids and they love football. When you get guys like that, that love football, you enjoy coaching. We addressed our front, had a couple of problems up front, we addressed that.”





Nick Marcinko
Nick is a recent graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in Telecommunications. He is passionate about all sports but specifically baseball and football. Nick interned at Inside the Gators and worked part time with Knights247 before joining the Gator Country family. Nick enjoys spending his free time golfing and at the beach.