The Florida Gators defense has had a busy off-season, with new defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong welcoming seven transfers to the team. These transfers include DL Caleb Banks (Louisville), EDGE Quincy Ivory (East LA CC), DL Cam Jackson (Memphis), LB Teradja Mitchell (Ohio State), S R.J. Moten (Michigan), LB Mannie Nunnery (Houston), and Deuce Spurlock II (Michigan).
Together, these new Gators bring in 44 combined starts and over 4,170 snaps played, which is a significant boost to the team’s defense. Compared to the 30 defensive returners with 69 total starts and 8,792 snaps, the newcomers have a wealth of experience and skill that will undoubtedly prove valuable to the team in the upcoming season.
RJ Moten brings experience in the defensive backfield
One standout transfer is safety R.J. Moten, whose father played LB for UF from 1982-86. Moten started 10 games in 2022, including the Big 10 Championship, and has 15 career starts and 1,033 snaps played. He is the 10th-highest on the roster and the third-most by a defensive player, behind Jason Marshall Jr. (1,417) and Mannie Nunnery (1,259).
Quotable: “I’m very versatile and I’ll be matched up in the slot, on tight ends, on running backs, in the box, in the post, all over the field really. So, his defense just allows me to maximize my talent. -RJ Moten on Austin Armstrong’s defense
Cam Jackson brings experience up front
Another transfer with an impressive track record is DL Cam Jackson, who comes with double-digit career starts (13) and 34 games in three seasons at Memphis. He finished with 41 tackles last season, which would have ranked second among Gator defensive linemen last year behind only Gervon Dexter Sr., a second-round pick by the Chicago Bears.
Quotable: “Coming into the SEC, I feel like I can I can come in and show what I really can do. Everybody saw what I did at Memphis and what I can do there. I feel like it’s time for me to show what I can do.” -Cam Jackson
Deep freshmen group should contribute
In addition to the seven transfers, twelve rookie defenders have joined the program this season, including four cornerbacks, three EDGEs, two defensive linemen, two safeties, and one linebacker. Half of the first-year players were consensus four-star recruits and five played in the 2023 Under Armour All-American Bowl Game, with EDGE Kelby Collins earning MVP honors.
Quotable: “We have a group of established players, but we have a lot of players who are right in the middle of heated competition. We’re just going to let that competition take its place. But I do think we’ve made a ton of progress. A lot of these young players have made significant progress. Kamran James, in particular, Ja’Keem Jackson, Jordan Castell. I think Manny Nunnery has had a really good camp. I think Jaden Robinson has had a really good camp. Caleb Banks has been impressive at times. -Billy Napier
With the addition of these new players, the Florida Gators defense is poised to have a bounce-back showing in the upcoming season. The team’s depth and experience have been bolstered significantly, and fans are eager to see what the future holds for that side of the ball.
Photo credit – Ashley Ray, UAA Communications