GatorNation: Strong up the middle

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp is concerned about his middle.

Not his waistline, though.

Muschamp is worried about the middle of his defense. A good defense hinges on being solid at defensive tackle, middle linebacker, and safety -- and that's where the Gators' biggest questions are as they head into the 2013 season.

"You better be strong up the middle," Muschamp said. "You look at any sport. Look at basketball, you better have a point guard and you better have a center. You better have a pitcher and a catcher in baseball. There's no question we've got to be strong up the middle. That's something that's a question mark."

Florida has to replace all five starters in those middle positions. Nose tackle Omar Hunter, middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic, and safety Josh Evans graduated, and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and safety Matt Elam decided to bypass their senior seasons for the NFL. It's not going to be an easy task, especially along the defensive line.

Redshirt junior Leon Orr (25 career tackles) steps into the starting job at nose tackle and senior Damien Jacobs (10 career tackles) moves into Floyd's old spot at tackle. Both were part of the rotation last season. However, there's only one other player on the roster who has played a snap at defensive tackle: senior end Dominique Easley, who started 12 games at tackle in 2011 before moving out to end last season. He will rotate between the two spots in 2013.

Junior Darious Cummings is a juco transfer from East Mississippi Community College and Joey Ivie is an early enrollee. They're the only other tackles on the roster right now. Four other tackles will arrive in July: Jay-nard Bostwick (Port St. Lucie, Fla./Centennial), Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, Fla./Crescent City), Jarran Reed (East Mississippi Community College) and Antonio Riles (Lawrenceville, Ga./Archer).

To read the rest of Michael DiRocco's story, click here.