The 2013 Florida Gators loses a few marquee players from their top-five defense of a year ago including Sharrif Floyd, who could be the top pick in this year’s NFL draft, and All-American safety Matt Elam. However, the highly anticipated return of Ronald Powell will be a welcome addition to the Gators after missing all of 2012 with a torn ACL.
Powell was supposed to be one of the best players on the Gators when spring practice began last year, but he tore his ACL during the Gators spring game and later suffered a setback while rehabbing his left knee, ending any hope of a return last season.
The former top recruit in the nation is hopeful he can be 100 percent by the fall, and the team is being cautious with the “buck” linebacker and holding him out of contact drills in the spring to preserve his health.
When he’s healthy, Powell can be one of the nastiest pass rushers in the SEC playing the hybrid defensive end/linebacker role in Will Muschamp’s defense. First-year defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin can deploy Powell in a similar fashion that Georgia used Jarvis Jones the past two years when he piled up 28 sacks as an outside linebacker/rush end.
Powell racked up six sacks in his last healthy season in 2011, and if he’s able to shake off the rust and prove he’s healthy this fall, then a double-digit sack season could be in store for the 6-foot-4, 250-pound defender. He can be a stabilizing force on a defense that features a nice mix of veterans and underclassmen.
I’m expecting Powell to live up to the hype that preceded his arrival in Gainesville, and make up for lost time and have a stellar season for the Gators in 2013 as they look to make it to the SEC Championship Game.