The good news for Florida defensively is that last years team was ranked second in the SEC, allowing just over 300 total yards of offense. However, this years Gator defensive squad will have many new faces. The Gators only return 4 starters from last years squad, and only 2 of those are starting this season. Starting Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins was second on the team last year in tackles with 76 and will be a counted on to lead this years defensive unit.
Jenkins was the #1 ranked outside linebacker in the country when he committed to Florida for the 2009 season. Unfortunately an ankle injury kept him out for the season and he had to redshirt. Once healthy he proved to everyone why he was such a highly touted recruit, showcasing sideline to sideline speed and a football IQ of a much more experienced player. Though only a sophomore, Jenkins is the elder statesman on the defensive side of the ball. New Defensive Coordinator, Dan Quinn, will lean on Jenkins experience and hope that he can lead a talented but inexperienced group.
This year could be rough for the Gators defensively. Returning only two starters, and installing a new defense with new coordinators and all young players does not make for an ideal setup. However, with the help of Quinn and Head Coach/defensive guru, Will Muschamp, the young Gator defense is in good hands. If they are to truly thrive in Coach Muschamp’s first season, he will need an outstanding year from Jelani Jenkins. Watch for him.