Young Florida Gators Defensive Tackles Dexter, Humphries Prepared to Play

Zach Goodall

Photo credit: University of Florida athletic association

One of the major takeaways from Florida's initial 2020 depth chart was the absence of projected starting nose tackle Kyree Campbell. It's unknown why Campbell didn't make the two-deep - he's listed on the roster - and head coach Dan Mullen said on the SEC teleconference call on Wednesday that he'd be available to play on Saturday

The Gators enter the 2020 season thin on experienced depth on the defensive line, to begin with. Campbell leads coach David Turner's group, the strong-side end, nose tackle, and three-technique tackle, with 24 of a combined 29 career starts. Losing Campbell, a proven run defender, could be detrimental up front if young players aren't ready to step up.

Luckily, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham believes he has two freshmen defensive linemen who are ready for action: True freshman Gervon Dexter, and redshirt freshman Jaelin Humphries.

"Gervon was a guy that obviously we thought a lot of when we recruited him," Grantham said on Tuesday. "He's done a good job from the standpoint of - with the OTAs as far as just t-shirts and learning and stuff like that, he applied himself and got some background that way. And as we put on the pads his physicality showed up, his ability to utilize his skillset, hold the point, play with power. That's shown up."

Dexter was Florida's first consensus five-star recruit to sign with the program out of high school since Martez Ivey and Cece Jefferson in the class of 2015. Across two varsity seasons at Lake Wales (Fla.), Dexter compiled a whopping 179 tackles, 27 sacks 53 tackles for loss, 14 forced fumbles, and batted passes.

The 6-foot-6, 308 lb. defensive tackle was considered raw as a prospect, having only played football for two years, and yet he is already listed as the No. 2 three-technique tackle behind redshirt junior Zachary Carter on Florida's week one depth chart. 

"I think as we move through the season, you always need guys up front," said Grantham. "We really kind of got depleted at certain times last year with injuries and things that happen. So, I think anytime you can play a lot of guys in the front, it's a good thing, and right now he's earned the right to play with his play and his practice and we'll just put him in there and let him roll."

Humphries couldn't be found on the two-deep, but Grantham is prepared for the redshirt freshman to play as well. Humphries took one snap in 2019, against Vanderbilt, otherwise dealing with an injury for the majority of the season.

The 6-3, 325 lb. defensive tackle profiles well as a nose tackle, playing the position next to Dexter and where Campbell was slated to start before being left off of the depth chart. Mountain View (Lawrenceville, Ga.) often lined Humphries up as a zero-technique, head over the center, in their defensive front, but he moved around on occasion and wreaked havoc in the backfield. 

Humphries recorded 134 total tackles, four sacks, 29 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and a batted pass in his high school career.

"Jaelin is a guy that has done a good job of progressing himself, getting in the kind of shape that we feel like he should be in," Grantham said. "He's a strong, powerful guy. Kind of a guy that can give you some quality stuff on say some two-down snaps, meaning first, second down, and do those kind of things."

Grantham emphasized that Humphries understands the two-down role, which will set him up to make an impact player in the middle of the defense versus the run. Grantham made note that Humphries was a player who improved from the team's first fall scrimmage to the second.

Unlike Dexter, Humphries may not see the field early and often this year. But with uncertainty looming at nose tackle given Campbell's pending status, Humphries at least serves as an insurance policy at nose tackle if the Gators need it.

"He's a guy that we are going to count on to give us some type of rotational relief at some point," said Grantham. "Just a matter of when - we're not quite sure yet. But, he's done a good job in putting himself in a position that we're going to count on him at some point." 

The Gators kick off their 2020 season at noon on Saturday, September 26th, against Ole Miss at Vaught Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss.