Written by Chris Canada, Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder
The long and dull offseason is finally coming to a close. Anticipation has never been higher in Gainesville, as last year's BCS champions are looking to do what no team in the BCS era has been able to accomplish: win a second-consecutive championship.
With all of the players from last year's team coming back to defend their title, introductions are probably not needed. However, the Gatorsfirst.com team will give you the positional breakdowns you deserve to be fully ready for the 2009 season.
The entire defensive line that terrorized the SEC last season, and kept Sam Bradford on his back in the national championship game this past January is back for another season.
Here is a detailed preview of this year’s squad.
Jermaine Cunningham (Sr., No.49, DE, 6'2'', 252lbs) returns for his senior season to anchor the defensive line. He had a great season last year, totaling 52 tackles and six sacks. Not only that, he forced three fumbles and deflected four passes. He does everything.
Cunningham is going to be a stud in the NFL. Gator fans need to appreciate what they’ve got as his days in Gainesville are fading fast.
Carlos Dunlap (Jr., No.8, DE, 6'6'', 290lbs) also returns to secure the other defensive end spot. He led the team in sacks last season with nine, good enough for second in the SEC.
After a slow start to last season, he heated up and straight dominated the last seven games. He ended up being named the defensive MVP of the national championship game with four tackles and 1.5 sacks. In fact, he wasn’t technically the starter, even though he got the majority of playing time.
Dunlap is tall and agile, and he gets to the quarterback with ease. Opposing QBs will have trouble sleeping the night before playing the Gators this season.
I was really surprised by the great play of our defensive tackles last season. Lawrence Marsh (RJr., No.90, DT, 6'4'', 304lbs) had 28 tackles and three sacks, while Terron Sanders (RJr., No.92, DT, 6'2'', 309lbs) had 21.
Although Sanders didn’t record any sacks, he was constantly causing havoc in the backfield, pressuring the quarterback into bad passes. He also had a fumble recovery against Georgia, which he returned for 20 yards.
Justin Trattou (Jr., No.94, DE, 6'3'', 264lbs) actually started 13 of the 14 games for the Gator defense in front of Carlos Dunlap at defensive end. Although Dunlap saw more time on the field, Trattou was crucial for the success of the line, garnering 27 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
I think Dunlap is going to see more starts, but wouldn’t be surprised if Trattou sees a bunch of starts.
Duke Lemmens (Jr., No.44, DE, 6'3'', 260lbs) and Jaye Howard (RJr., No.6, DT, 6'3'', 296lbs) will be relied on heavily to spell Jermaine Cunningham and Terron Sanders, respectively. Both got some playing time last season, notably Lemmens, who seemed to make some big tackles when we really needed them.
I’m really looking forward to seeing former 5-star prospect Omar Hunter (RFr., No.99, DT, 6'0'', 308lbs). He got to play in three games early in the season, but was granted a medical redshirt midway through the 2008 campaign.
As a big nasty in the middle of the defensive line, I expect him to spell Lawrence Marsh at nose tackle and gain the experience he’ll need as a mega-star in the future.
Brandon Antwine, William Green, Troy Epps, and Edwin Herbert will all get some playing time, but it will be limited, due to the depth in front of them. The cupboard is full on our D-Line with new freshmen stars Gary Brown and Kendric Johnson coming in, as well as sophomore Earl Okine.
However, they will probably be learning from the veterans from the sidelines all season. Lamar Abel and Glen Watson will probably not see the playing field.
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