Projecting Florida Gators depth chart: Defense

The Florida Gators will scrimmage on Monday for the first time during fall camp and their first game is less than three weeks away. With the first scrimmage — and season — approaching quickly it’s time to break down where the team stands and how the depth chart looks.

Defensive End
Jabari Zuniga – RsSr
Zach Carter – RsSo
Luke Ancrum – RsSr
Andrew Chatfield – RsFr

Breakdown: Zuniga returning for his senior season was fantastic for the Gators. He provides talent; pass rush and leadership for the defense and team as a whole. After Zuniga it appears that Zach Carter is ready to breakout. He’s my pick for breakout player of the year, not just on defense by the whole team. Chatfield keeps coming along and he has the time to do so with Zuniga and Carter in front of him.

DT (3-technique)
Adam Shuler – RsSr
Marlon Dunlap – RsJr
Luke Ancrum – RsSr
Jaelin Humphries – FR (hasn’t been practicing)

Breakdown: Shuler is the unquestioned starter here. He earned that last season and the West Virginia transfer has definitely adjusted to SEC football. After him we haven’t seen a lot of Marlon Dunlap or Luke Ancrum but both will need to play quality reps this season based off of snap counts.

Nose Tackle
Kyree Campbell – Jr
Elijah Conliffe – Jr
Or
T.J. Slaton – Jr

Breakdown: Kyree Campbell really came on last year and earned the starting role. He’s continued to develop and get better and he’s a guy players look to in the locker room now. TJ Slaton moved over from three technique and has shed 30 pounds (down to 365). He reports that it’s giving him more endurance on the field and that should show this fall. Conliffe was absent at Friday’s practice for an undisclosed reason but Conliffe and Slaton would seem to be in line to spell Campbell.

BUCK
Jonathan Greenard – RsSr
Jeremiah Moon – RsJr
Mohamoud Diabate – Fr
Khris Bogle – Fr
Lloyd Summerall – Fr

Breakdown: Getting Jon Greenard to Florida was a coup. Greenard is talented, experienced and already had experience in the defense. The learning curve that most transfers have was non existent for him and it shows on the field. He’s taken the starting job here and there’s no indication he’s going to lose it. That doesn’t mean that Jeremiah Moon is buried, far from it. There will be plenty of snaps for both of them and Moon offers more speed and some different coverage ability than Greenard. The two of them will share the bulk of the job this season. The freshmen are coming along. Expect to see Diabate play, definitely on special teams while Bogle may play on special teams. Summerall is a redshirt candidate. He has a lot of raw ability but you can tell he needs some time to develop his body.

Middle Linebacker
David Reese – Sr
James Houston – RsSo
Jesiah Pierre – Fr

Breakdown: David Reese has been reliable and dependable for four years. It started when he was an early enrollee and was quickly brought up to speed by Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis. Reese has returned the favor with younger players like James Houston and the new freshmen linebackers. Houston is coming in to his own as well. He’s going to get some playing time this season and would be the next man up if Reese goes down for any reason.

Weakside Linebacker (Money)
Amari Burney – So
Ventrell Miller – RsSo
Lacedrick Brunson – RsSo
Tyron Hopper – Fr

Breakdown: Amari Burney played safety in high school and you can see a lot of that athleticism and ball skill translate to his game at linebacker. He started to turn the corner towards the end of the season. This spring he emerged as the replacement for Vosean Joseph and he hasn’t done anything to lose grip of that starting spot.

Cornerback
C.J. Henderson – Jr
Jaydon Hill – Fr
Chester Kimbrough – Fr

Breakdown: C.J. Henderson is the Gators’ lone preseason first team All-American. He deserves it. Behind him are two freshmen, who could play either cornerback spot. Jaydon Hill has looked really comfortable on his surgically repaired knee. The freshman enrolled early but spent the spring learning while continuing to rehabilitate his knee. Kimbrough seems to be coming along quickly from the open portions of practice that we’ve seen.

Cornerback
Marco Wilson – RsSo
Kaiir Elam – Fr

Breakdown: Marco Wilson is the starter. He’s an All-SEC type of player and if he remains healthy he’ll show that. Elam has the pedigree and the talent. He’s going to be a great player. He’ll show that at times this year but he has to wait his turn at DBU.

Nickel (Star)
Trey Dean – So
John Huggins – RsFr
Christopher McWilliams – RsJr

Breakdown: This is where things really start to get weird. Trey Dean announced last year in the locker room after the Peach Bowl that he would be moving to the Star role that Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was vacating. It makes sense. Dean is great against the run, he’s long and physical and like to play that way. He’s quick enough in space to do it and it seemed like a match made in heaven. Behind him John Huggins had a phenomenal spring but hasn’t been around the team dealing with, what the University of Florida Athletic Association is calling a “family issue.” Christopher McWilliams left practice last week with an apparent injury and wasn’t with the team on Friday. If those two aren’t available the depth here is close to non-existent. With that being the case we’ve seen Kaiir Elam and some freshmen getting looks at nickel to get them ready in case of emergency.

Free Safety
Donovan Stiner – Jr
Shawn Davis – Jr

Breakdown: Stiner is constantly praised by the coaching staff and his teammates for his football IQ. He was beat at times last year and took some bad angles but that happens in football. He’s a heady player and that’s something you need on the backend. Shawn Davis continues to come along and develop. He’s a big hitter but is working on rounding out his game more. He’s more than capable of putting it all together and we might see that this year.

Strong safety
Jeawon Taylor – Sr
Brad Stewart – Jr
Quincy Lenton – RsJr

Breakdown: Taylor is the returning starter here but, as he has been the last couple of camps, is limited to a non-contact injury. Taylor himself and coaches have said that he will be ready to go on August 24, the non-contact jersey is just a precaution. Taylor is a smart player and dependable. He’s good against the run. Behind him is Brad Stewart, who was absent from practice and has had a few off the field issues. Stewart is obviously more than capable of playing and he showed that in flashes last year, most notably a pick six to ice a win over LSU. Quincy Lenton who has suffered season-ending injuries in each of the last two seasons rounds out the depth chart. If Lenton can stay healthy he has the ability to be a really good player. He just needs to stay healthy.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC