Leadership. An aspect of the Gators defense that is sorely lacking.
In a season that has seen a multitude of variance from what we have grown to know as the norm, Florida has not only been sidelined for two weeks due to an outbreak of coronavirus but struggled to field an efficient unit defensively.
Ranking 93rd overall in total defense throughout their first three games, just below the likes of Florida State, the Gators have allowed 495 yards and 33.3 points per game.
The reason? It’s more than just one. A lack of depth, communication, and overall execution can be named prominent factors that play into the team's struggles. However, what is currently lacking the most from this Gators defense is a veteran leader with experience in his role.
Despite the likes of Ventrell Miller seeing starting time in 2019 after an impressive week zero performance versus Miami, Miller's playing time at the off-ball linebacker position came alongside veteran David Reese II.
Since then, Reese has moved on, and Miller has tried to acclimate himself to taking over the role of middle linebacker and being a vocal presence between the hashes the way Reese was.
To Florida's dismay, that transition has been rather difficult, and the job is not getting done the way it has in the past. As a result, UF remains in search of someone with knowledge of Grantham’s system to lead them into the light.
Enter, senior defensive lineman Kyree Campbell.
Fortunately for Florida, the multi-year starter and relentless run-stopper returns to action after missing the first three games of this season for undisclosed reasons, just at the right time.
That marks the question: How Important is Campell's Return for the Florida Gators?
In short, Campbell's triumphant comeback is, well, huge.
Starting in 24 games throughout his collegiate career, Campbell brings a certain energy and leadership to the defensive front that the Gators have lacked to this point.
Playing in a total of 33 games since stepping on campus, Campbell has totaled 88 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks in Gators defenses that have ranked atop college football.
Despite not being someone to dominate the box score, Campbell’s mere presence on the field provides the Florida defense with an extra boost up the middle given his electric personality on and off the field.
Possibly allowing one on one matchups across the board for rushers off the edge given his ability to blow up the middle, he immediately makes everyone around him better in the pass rusher department.
But, that’s not the facet of Missouri’s game that he disrupts the most on their trip to Gainesville.
Specifically helpful in a department that Missouri will attempt to rely on in Saturday’s Halloween night matchup heavily, Campbell brings an anchor to the running game that has been a void in Florida’s defense to this point in the season.
With many believing that Campbell returning to the trenches following his absence doesn’t completely fix the evident problems the team has faced from a schematical standpoint, what he does help is the rotational depth of veteran players that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham can utilize.
In a year that staying fresh and ready to go for whatever comes in their direction is prominent, the Gators' defensive line has struggled to avoid the natural occurrence of the games wear and tear.
Campbell not only provides another body along the front line to limit the fatigue of another flashy player like Tedarrell Slaton, but he also projects to make an immediate difference as a returning starter, as well as a leader in year three of this system.
As there still stands prominent impediments in front of the Gators to achieve success this season, Campbell's re-addition starts the process of a much-needed change to the forefront of a sub-standard defense.
With only a week remaining until the Gators biggest game of the season—in which they will battle it out in Jacksonville for control of the SEC East against Georgia—Campbell’s return couldn’t have come at a better time as he looks to use Missouri as a way to return to game form.
His usage on Saturday on the field may not be the one Florida fans have grown accustomed to seeing from big numbers fifty-five. However, the possible impact a player of his caliber can provide gives the Gators a significant opportunity to see improvements to build off going forward.