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Opponent Preview: Florida Gators Defense

Syndication: Gainesville Sun Doug Engle / USA TODAY NETWORK

Florida is ringing in a new era under new head coach Billy Napier, and he brings with him a pair of co-defensive coordinators with an impressive pedigree that should have this new-look Gators defense ready to roll come Saturday night in the Swamp.

Patrick Toney, one of Florida’s defensive coordinators, joins Napier after working with the head ball coach in Louisiana for the last four seasons, including two seasons as sole defensive coordinator for the Rajin’ Cajuns, a team that ranked 11th nationally in total defense in 2011. He’s joined by Sean Spencer, otherwise known as “Coach Chaos” . Spencer made a name for himself during his six seasons at Penn State as a defensive line coach. During his tenure with the Nittany Lions, his lineman were some of the most productive and violent in the nation, frequently ranking among the top units in the nation for sacks, tackles for loss, and total defense. On paper, this pairing is one of the most intimidating defensive coordinator units in the nation, but they’ll have an uphill battle rebuilding a defense that ranked 73rd nationally last season.

Knowing Spencer’s knack for building formidable defensive lines that can pressure opposing quarterbacks with ease, Utah needs to be leary of sophomore Gervon Dexter Sr. (6’6”, 312 lbs). As the most veteran player along the line, Dexter will certainly be seen as a leader along a fairly young, inexperienced line. In 2021 alone, Dexter accounted for 50 total tackles (20 solo), 2.5 sacks, and two fumble recoveries. With the losses of Mohammoud Diabte and Ty’Ron Hopper to the transfer portal, that production would place Dexter firmly in the top three in regards to returning production for the Gators this season.

Speaking of Diabte and Hopper, seniors Ventrell Miller (6’0”, 221 lbs) and Amari Burney (6’2”, 228 lbs) will be looking to fill the holes left behind by the pair of talented linebackers. Miller, a sixth-year senior, made two starts last season before a season-ending injury sidelined the veteran for the season. He returns having recorded 7.5 career sacks and 166 total tackles. Burney, on the other hand, doesn't quite fill out a stat sheet as well as his counter part, but a quick glance at his game tape shows his value as an inside blitzer, with fluidity and acceleration to make him a dangerous threat in the backfield as well.

Seeing how this unit plans to come together will be interesting. A formidable battle inside the trenches should highlight where Utah’s offensive line stacks up early in the season before conference play starts.