Projecting the Florida Gators’ 2017 depth chart: defense

There’s not a lot of experience on this defense, but there is some.

After running through my offensive depth chart projections yesterday, it’s time to move onto our defense.

Here’s how the defense looks like it’s shaping out:

(Key: Teal background denotes a preseason 2017 All-American selection. Bright green background denotes a returning starter. Light green background denotes a key contributor, defined as somebody who played in and recorded a stat in half of Florida’s games last year. A * denotes the player has been suspended indefinitely due to off the field issues.)

Florida Gators offensive depth chart
Position 1st 2nd 3rd
DE Cece Jefferson Antonneous Clayton Jordan Sherit
DT Taven Bryan Luke Ancrum Elijah Conliffe
NT Khairi Clark TJ Slaton Kyree Campbell
DE Jabari Zuniga Jachai Polite Zach Carter
OLB Kylan Johnson Jeremiah Moon James Houston*
MLB David Reese Cristian Garcia Rayshad Jackson
OLB Vosean Joseph Ventrell Miller* James Houston*
CB Duke Dawson Marco Wilson Brian Edwards
S Nick Washington Brad Stewart Shawn Davis
S Chauncey Gardner Jeawon Taylor Donovan Stiner
CB Joseph Putu CJ Henderson McArthur Burnett

-There’s no pretending the loss of Marcell Harris doesn’t hurt. It does. A lot. But the Gators signed a tremendous class of defensive backs last year that includes Marco Wilson, Brad Stewart, CJ Henderson, Donovan Stiner, Brian Edwards and Shawn Davis, and many if not all of them will see action right away as a freshman. The CB2 role opposite Dawson is completely up for grabs long term- Joseph Putu is a senior JUCO transfer who has done everything that has been asked of him, is a great kid, and constantly draws praise for his work ethic, so he’s got the job for now. But don’t be shocked if the freshman Wilson eventually works his way into that spot.

-Florida’s linebacker position will be in much better shape once the suspended players get reinstated. But until they are, I have no idea what the hell they’re going to do when the starters need a breather. There’s a lot to like about Jeremiah Moon, and he’s athletic enough to play on either the inside or outside linebacker spot. But after the starting four plus Moon, Florida is down to just two scholarship linebackers: Rayshad Jackson and former walk-on Cristian Garcia. If there’s an area where the suspensions really hurt, this is it- even more than at wide receiver.

-Antonneous Clayton is the wild card of this defense. He didn’t do much as a freshman last year, but coaches have praised the way he’s performed this offseason and he appears poised for a breakout season. It won’t be easy to leapfrog either Jabari Zuniga or Cece Jefferson into the starting lineup, but if Clayton plays the way he’s practiced this offseason, he’ll be hard to keep off the field.

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