Gators pass-rush tandem considered dominant by PFF; Zuniga earns elite grade

Zach Goodall

The Florida Gators pass rush exploded on the opening night of the 2019 college football season, recording 10 sacks on Miami quarterback Jarren Williams on the nationally televised "Week Zero" game from Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL.

And after finding further pass-rushing success against UT-Martin - tallying five sacks and 10 tackles for loss - they're starting to get some national attention and respect.

Pro Football Focus, who supplies analytics and data to 70 FBS teams and all 32 NFL teams, rank defensive ends Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard as two of the top three EDGE defenders in the nation entering Week 3.

Zuniga, who has three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss to start the season, is currently PFF's No. 1 EDGE in the country with an "elite" 93.3 grade. The 6-4, 246 lb. defensive end is enjoying quite the start to his redshirt freshman season, creating 11 QB pressures by PFF's count.

Greenard, who transferred to Florida this past spring after graduating from Louisville, had 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, and a 21.1% pass-rush win-rate against Miami. It marked quite the comeback for Greenard, who broke his wrist nine snaps into the 2018 season at Louisville, coincidentally playing on the same field. His pressure count is up to 10, earning him an 89.1 grade - nearly elite status. 

There were previous concerns over the loss of production in Florida's pass rush entering 2019, after the team lost BUCK edge rusher Jachai Polite to the NFL. Given his 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in 2018, which led to Zuniga being viewed as a first-round pick. - that is, prior to his draft process falling apart and his eventual release from the New York Jets.

But 15 sacks in two games should give just about every fan and analyst confidence in their ability to affect the passer. Given the EDGE tandem's early success and other players that have made an impact, such as Ventrell Miller, Jeremiah Moon, and Khris Bogle, Florida's pass rush is ready to start wreaking havoc against SEC opponents.

The ninth-ranked Gators head to Lexington, KY. this week to take on the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson was ruled out for the rest of the 2019 season with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, suffered against Eastern Michigan on Saturday. Junior and former Troy quarterback Sawyer Smith is set to take over as the Wildcats signal-caller. You can catch the game at 7 P.M. on Saturday, on ESPN.


Gator Maven