The Florida Gators defense was expected to be depleted in a major way with a number of players looking to enter the 2016 NFL Draft early. Instead, those losses will be somewhat mitigated with junior linebacker Jarrad Davis and redshirt junior safety Marcus Maye both confirming Monday that they will return to the team for their final seasons.
“One last ride as a Florida Gator!! Honored to wear the Orange & Blue on emore time!! #GatorNation #BDN,” Davis wrote on his Twitter account.
Maye co-signed the sentiment, adding, “One more go round!!”
Davis (98) and Maye (82) combined for 180 tackles this season, finishing second and fourth, respectively, among the Gators’ defenders in takedowns. Davis notched 11 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, seven quarterback hurries, an interception and a forced fumble; Maye checked in with 1.5 tackles for loss, two picks, three QB hurries and a team-high five forced fumbles.
With Florida losing its first and third leading tacklers in senior LB Antonio Morrison (graduation) and junior S Keanu Neal (early draft entrant), plus its best defender in senior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (graduation) and one of its most talented players in junior cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (early entrant), it was imperative for the Gators to keep Davis and Maye in the fold.
It may sound like UF is not returning a lot on defense in 2016, but there are some top-notch players coming back aside from Davis and Maye. Redshirt junior defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. (10.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks), sophomore CB Jalen Tabor (four interceptions, 14 pass breakups), sophomore defensive back Quincy Wilson (two interceptions, five pass breakups), redshirt junior DT Caleb Brantley (6.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks) and freshman DE CeCe Jefferson (8.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks) are just some of the names returning to what should still be a standout unit in 2016.
Joining Hargreaves and Neal as early entrants in the 2016 NFL Draft are juniors running back Kelvin Taylor, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and DE Alex McCalister.