Last season, the exterior of the Florida defensive line was undergoing a significant makeover from what was seen in 2019.
Losing star BUCK edge rusher Jonathan Greenard and strong-side end Jabari Zuniga to the NFL, the task to reload the defensive end position—that contributed to being ranked sixth in the nation in sacks per game (3.5)—looked to be a tall asking order in the first few matchups of 2020.
Entering the season with hopes that veterans Zachary Carter and Jeremiah Moon, as well as newly-eligible Georgia transfer Brenton Cox Jr., could take over the workload and produce similar numbers, Florida would begin the year strong but falter as time went on.
Coming away with eight sacks in its first two matchups, Florida was on the right track to match the numbers of the season prior. Running into a brick wall on their trip to Texas A&M, serious concerns about creating push on the defensive line started to arise as the Aggies struck Florida out in the sack department and hoisted 41 points in the Gators' first loss of the year.
Following a hiatus due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the program, Florida would return to action against Missouri a few weeks later, before traveling to Jacksonville to take on Georgia. Having Moon lead the Gators with six tackles, 1.5 TFL, and one sack on the night, the defensive end position was looking up for the better with him starting to play at a high level.
However, going down for the season against Georgia with a foot injury, the Gators would be without one of their major factors in some of the season’s biggest contests.
As a result, the strong-side end and BUCK positions were spearheaded by Carter and Cox—who combined for 77 total tackles, nine sacks, two passes defended, two fumble recoveries and a Carter scoop ‘n’ score touchdown against Arkansas.
Despite loads of production from the starters, a necessity for depth provided a multitude of players with opportunities, and Khris Bogle was one up for the task. With his increased playing time, Bogle would make a statement with 27 total tackles, four sacks, and one forced fumble on the year. Tying Cox for second on the team in sacks, Bogle made impact plays when allowed to pin his ears back as a pass rusher.
Providing a much-needed bright to an overall abysmal defense, the defensive line's production didn’t stop there.
Also, seeing time—although sparing—from Andrew Chatfield Jr. and Princely Umanmielen, the depth of the Gators edge stepped up in a big way to provide loads of efficiency in their small sample sizes.
Ranking fifth and sixth on the team in total sacks on the year, Chatfield (2.5 sacks) and Umanmielen (2 sacks) made significant cases for more playing time when 2021 rolls around.
Finishing the year as the 23rd-ranked team in the nation in sacks per game at 2.9, Florida found their way to the opposing quarterback 35 times in 12 games, with 18.5 of those sacks coming from edge rushers.
Despite the lack of a head honcho leading the unit, Florida continued to apply pressure to its opposition committee. Still, it often struggled to hit home due to the secondary’s inefficiency and their own issues early on in the year.
Moving forward, the Gators will retain all of the defensive ends from the 2020 campaign. Adding talented freshman Jeremiah “Scooby” Williams, Tyreak Sapp, and Justus Boone to the fold next season, the edge position is becoming a plentiful unit for seasons to come.
As a result, depth and experience should be no issue for the exterior of David Turner’s line—barring injury—as Florida looks to regain the stout defensive prowess it held in Todd Grantham’s first two seasons at UF in 2021.