In the previous piece looking at offensive recruiting in the SEC we were able to identify a few areas where the Florida staff has their work cut out for them. Today, we'll take a look at the defenses across the SEC and where they're at from a talent and depth standpoint. After two rough showings by the defense each of the last two seasons, Patrick Toney has been tasked with bringing suffocating defense back to Gainesville.
So what exactly does Toney have to work with as he arrives? Below are charts which lay out the different position groups in the SEC, allowing us to take a look at how each team has recruited at the respective positions based on talent and depth. Similarly to the last piece, there are just some key notes to keep in mind before we proceed:
This data is looking solely at high school prospects. Although the transfer portal has exploded in popularity over the last few years, a majority of team-building is done through high school recruiting.
Data also includes kids who may have signed but never enrolled with a program. I'd love to remove these, but it'd be tedious work going through four years of recruiting classes for the 14 SEC teams (over 1,200 commits). We can still glean some insight into the health of each position group as these cases are the exception, not the rule.
Position designations and ratings come from 247 Sports. In the last year, 247 reshaped their designations, therefore some positions in previous years were grouped together to match the new designations: SDE & WDE become EDGE and ILB & OLB become LB.
At first glance, we can see that from a talent standpoint, Florida is better off defensively than they are offensively, finishing towards the top half of the conference across each position group. The former staff was able to sell on-field success from their edge players, leaving more than enough pass rushers for Toney and Sean Spencer to work with, even considering the departure of Khris Bogle. With the recent addition of Devin Moore on Early Signing Day, the Cornerback room is restocked and ready to be developed by the great Corey Raymond.
While Gainesville once laid claim to DBU, that claim is now tenuous at best, with the Gators struggling in the secondary, especially at the Safety position each of the last two years. Coming in near the middle of the conference, Florida has depth, but needs to continue adding talent after signing five-star Safety, Kamari Wilson on Early Signing Day. Another area of concern is the interior of the defensive line, as Florida has not gotten a ton of production - aside from Gervon Dexter - from the younger DTs, and could even use to bring in some transfers at the position (for both depth and competition) should they become available in the spring. Finally, the departure of two of the three highest rated LB commits in the last four years in Mohamoud Diabate and Ty'Ron Hopper leaves a huge void in the LB room.
With two days until Signing Day, Patrick Toney and his staff can jumpstart the defensive rebuild by landing a couple key players at positions of need.
Harold Perkins, LB - As stated above, Florida has a huge need at LB losing a key leader in Diabate, and a potential building block in Hopper. Currently living in Texas, Perkins has family ties to Louisiana, making this a tough battle for the Gators staff to win over. Also playing the RB position in High School, Perkins shows freakish athleticism, something needed to play LB in today's game.
Jacoby Mathews, S - probably the toughest battle of them all, Florida has their work cut out for them as LSU is seen as the current favorite for the Louisiana safety. Florida is hoping that Corey Raymond's previous connection with Mathews from his time at LSU will help them win this key battle. If they do, Mathews will complement Wilson nicely, bringing solid change-of-direction skill and an ability to roam the back end of the defense in coverage.
Caden Story, DL - the battle for the four-star DL from Alabama appears to be coming down to Clemson and Florida. In order to avoid relying on the transfer portal down the road, Florida needs to bring in young, talented DL each year. With a frame built to continue to put on weight, Story would be an intriguing piece for new DL Coach, Sean Spencer to develop.
Though it is a transition class, Florida has a major opportunity to bring in some highly rated players at key positions on the defensive side of the ball. Winning a few of these battles is integral if Patrick Toney and Co. have any hopes of returning the Florida defense to its former glory.