When Florida lost defensive end Dante Fowler after the 2014 season, a big question was whether the Gators could replace his pass-rushing productivity. It was answered affirmatively.
Dante Fowler had 8.5 sacks in ’14, the most by a Gator since 2009, when Carlos Dunlap had 9.5. But under new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins in 2015, the Gators actually improved their pass rush, finishing second in the SEC and tied for fifth nationally with 40 sacks. It was impressive, considering Fowler’s departure and the new scheme installed by Collins.
Now, the Gators must reload again after losing their top two sack guys; Jonathan Bullard and Alex McCalister had 6.5 each.
There is talent returning on the edge in senior Bryan Cox Jr. and sophomore CeCe Jefferson. Cox (6 feet 3, 260 pounds) has made his mark more against the run, but he did have 3.5 sacks and six quarterback hurries in 2015. The key for him is finishing those “hurries” and turning them into sacks. He had a strong spring and looks to have improved his first step, which gives him a chance to double those numbers as a senior.
Jefferson (6-1, 270) was a five-star recruit and had a solid freshman campaign with 3.5 sacks. During the spring, coaches experimented with moving him inside at times, much like Bullard last season. Jefferson played inside at times during his high school career, and his quickness could be an advantage in nickel situations. Jefferson’s ability to bounce inside and out gives Collins flexibility in his game-planning.
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This article originally published at www.gridironnow.com.