Florida Football: What's Next for Gators Following Robert Nkemdiche's Decision?

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2013

January 4, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Team Highlight Robert Nkemdiche (1) during the second half at the Under Armour All-America high school Game at Tropicana Field. Team Highlight defeated the Team Nitro 16-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Despite losing out to the Ole Miss Rebels on the No. 1 overall high school football recruit Robert Nkemdiche, the Florida Gators are still one of the most dominant defensive teams in the nation.

Nkemdiche undoubtedly would have been a great addition to any program—a versatile defensive end that can play in both the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes and could make an instant impact—but the depth Florida has across the defensive front seven will ease the blow.

At 11-2 during the 2012 regular season and 7-1 against the Southeastern Conference, the Gators will not lose sleep over Nkemdiche’s commitment to another school.

Instead of Florida fans getting excited for Nkemdiche’s freshman season, the Swamp will have to show their support for soon-to-be-senior Dominique Easley during his final season with the Gators.

Easley emerged as a viable starter last season after switching positions with departing defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, and another offseason in the Florida weight room and raised expectations will result in a career year for the versatile defender.

The ability to play anywhere on the defensive line—Easley has thrived at both end and tackle over his career—allows all of the other talented players on the nation’s fifth-ranked defense (14.5 points per game) to thrive in their ideal positions.

Nkemdiche is a great player with enormous upside, but Easley has the potential to continue making a serious impact on a national championship contending team.

And Easley isn’t alone.

The Gators will look to rotate promising defensive tackles Leon Orr and Damien Jacobs in order to replace the departing Omar Hunter, which will make the defensive line as tough as ever.

Florida has a solid set of outside linebackers that can provide a great pass rush, and the evolution of the three-man defensive front the Gators use has made them considered a perennial national powerhouse.

As great as Nkemdiche could become over his career, Florida has plenty of talented stars to make up for the recruit's commitment to SEC foe Ole Miss.