The group that raises the most question marks on the defensive side of the ball for UF is the one that usually brings the most stability to a defense.
The linebackers for Florida are young and inexperienced, but the depth at the position this season could be a bright spot for the team.
The Gators lost Vosean Joseph (5th round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills), Kylan Johnson (transferred to Pittsburgh), Rayshad Jackson (transferred to UNLV) and David Reese (torn Achilles, lost for the season). Plenty of talent has been brought in to help replace those losses, though.
The most noteworthy addition is a transfer from Louisville.
Graduate transfer Jonathan Greenard brings invaluable experience to a group where 10 of the 13 linebackers on the roster have yet to start in a college football game.
Greenard registered seven sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 2017 for the Cardinals and figured to be an impact player in 2018 before a wrist injury sidelined him for the season. He’ll hope to replace Jachai Polite, who netted 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss a year ago.
The two others that bring substantial experience to the position are Jeremiah Moon and David Reese II.
Reese II, a senior, will man the middle of the defense once again this season, hoping to build on a 2018 campaign that saw him record 77 tackles (good for second on the team) despite missing the first three games with an ankle injury. His presence on the field will be crucial to the success of UF’s defense.
Moon has nine career starts at linebacker for Florida and should find himself on the field quite a bit for the Gators this fall. He has accumulated 54 tackles and two sacks over his last two seasons in Gainesville.
The biggest question now — with Jackson, Joseph and Johnson gone — is who will start alongside Reese II.
The ones that make the most sense are redshirt sophomores James Houston IV and Ventrell Miller, as well as newly-converted linebacker Amari Burney (who was formerly classified as an athlete).
Houston IV and Miller both appeared in all 13 games last season, contributing mostly on special teams. The pair combined for 43 tackles and four tackles for loss in 2018, and one could expect those numbers to trend upward in 2019 with another year of experience.
Burney, like the prior two mentioned, played a key role on special teams for the Gators in 2018, totaling 11 tackles and two tackles for loss. His first-career sack came in the Peach Bowl, and now the former safety will hope to utilize his athleticism and make an impact at a position he doesn’t have a lot of experience with.
UF’s 2019 recruiting class featured four four-star additions to the linebacker room. Freshmen Khris Bogle, Lloyd Summerall III, Mohamoud Diabate and Ty’Ron Hopper shore up the backside of the depth chart at linebacker for the Gators, and all should play key roles both on special teams and on defense in the event that injuries cause any depth issues this fall.
Follow Evan Lepak on Twitter @evanmplepak. Contact him at [email protected].