With the majority of the Gator's defense graduating and going to the NFL, the young players will need to mature faster than usual and the seniors must take leadership responsibility instantly if Florida wants any shot at winning the SEC or a National Title this season.
The Gators have three freshman who could contribute in major ways: Ronald Powell, Sharrif Floyd, and Dominique Easley.
These three defensive studs were ranked No. 1, 4, and 8 respectively, on Rivals.com's top-100 recruit rankings of 2010.
All 840 pounds of this trio, collectively create one of the most dominant defensive lines the Southeastern Conference recruiting class has ever seen.
Although Powell, Floyd, and Easley are from different states, the trio decided to join forces in Florida because they wanted the chance to play together, and the Gators made the most convincing pitch.
Individually, each player brings a unique aspect to this Florida Defense.
Sharrif Floyd has the ability to draw and handle double teams with veteran type rhythm and is a beast at stopping the run. This young superstar is a powerful defensive tackle that can clog up the middle in a heartbeat.
Teammate Lynden Trail said that even at 290 pounds, Dominique Easley has so much speed off the line of scrimmage that "he can almost snatch the ball before it's snapped."(1)
Ronald Powell is a versatile defensive end who can bully his way through the line or speed his way around the offensive tackle.
Powell is a very determined athlete who plans to work hard enough to become "the best defensive end in America."(1)
"We pretty much know we all can bring special things to the table," said Powell. "We were already in a bond before we got here, but just hanging out together every day has made us closer."(1) This valuable friendship off of the football field can construct a strong connection on the football field that is unbeatable.
With the swarm of players that either graduated or left early to enter the NFL Draft, the player that has now stepped up as the true vocal leader of the Gators defense is Ahmad Black.
Named a team captain on defense, Black realizes but embraces the tough road they have ahead.
"This is probably one of the toughest offseasons we've had," he said. "There are a lot of shoes to fill, and we have to get guys ready so they can be physically and mentally prepared to get out there and play."
As the only senior in the Florida secondary, the leadership role is a responsibility he does not take lightly.
"I'm trying to step up. I have to," said Black. "I am one of the few seniors that we have on the defense and one of the guys that has been here for a while. It is my job to help these young guys and help them do what they are supposed to do."
At 5'9" and 190 pounds, Black will be one of the premiere safety's in the SEC this year.
"I'm ready to get the season on the road," said an eager Ahmad Black. "It's my last one. I'm trying to cherish it. As a freshman, I thought it was going to be handed to me and it wasn't. I just had to learn to go hard and show that I really belong here."
This mental toughness is something that spreads through the Gators defense.
The reason the Gators have been so successful on defense year in and year out is because of the confidence and dedication that each Gator player possesses when they strap on their University of Florida football helmet.
1. Orlando Sentinel : http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-08-10/sports/os-florida-football-super-freshmen-20100810_1_lynden-trail-uf-defense-floyd