The Florida Gators lost eight starters from its defense that finished fifth nationally in yards allowed, so new faces and younger players will take prominent roles throughout the defense in 2017.
But that alone is not enough for SEC Network analyst Marcus Spears to start doubting the Gators’ potential to have another solid year on defense.
“They’re still good,” said Spears, a former LSU defensive lineman. “They still have athletes that are off the charts. They just have to put them in a position to make them successful.”
Specifically, Spears mentioned defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga as a player who can stand out this season. Zuniga, a 6-foot-3, 245 pound redshirt sophomore, led the team with 5 sacks and 11 quarterback hurries a year ago. He recorded 2 sacks each against Massachusetts and North Texas and had a career-high 4 quarterback hurries in Florida’s win against Georgia.
“He’s going to be a ball player,” Spears said.
Spears also spoke highly of Randy Shannon, who was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator in the spring after Geoff Collins accepted the head coaching job at Temple.
“He’s been great in a role as a coordinator,” Spears said. “There are questions about him in a head coaching role, but as a coordinator he’s been great. I know the rapport. I was there this spring. He has a great rapport with these guys.”