The Bash Brothers.
You can go ahead right now and count me in as a fan.
Aside from it being long enough since the Gators had a great defensive line, which by my count has been since at least 2008 (or 2009, possibly), this is pretty much the icing on the cake for a defense that was already expected to be quite good.
And that's just taking a look at the defensive ends.
The defensive line as a unit last year accounted for 30 sacks with Dominique Easley leading the team with 4. It's interesting in scanning the list though as they might have had only 29 sacks because I can't seem to figure out just how Jacoby Brissett had a sack. (Edit: Jacoby's sack was actually Antonio Morrison's. H/T to davidkennedy5250.)
The Gators don't return a whole heck of a lot after Easley, though. Sharrif Floyd, Jon Bostic, Lerentee McCray and Josh Evans are all gone and they all accounted for 11.5 sacks out of the 30. That's quite a big percentage.
But this isn't about middle linebackers or safeties getting sacks. In all actuality, this is more about a coach than anything and that coach is Brad Lawing. As some of you will remember, Lawing came over in the summer from South Carolina to coach the defensive line. He's the guy who had a large part in making Jadeveon Clowney who he is today. Although I'm pretty sure a lot of that is just who Clowney is.
Just read what Fowler had to say about Lawing in that same TODAY piece:
"The stuff he gives us, some things I never even knew about, some techniques just really helped me and the other guys in our pass rush..."
Then this about the pass rush and defense in general:
"I feel like our pass rush is going to be a lot better. I know last year we played a lot of DBs on the field but I know this year I think (Will Muschamp) is going to let us pin our ears back a little bit more and rush a lot."
And remember when Tomahawk Nation trashed Fowler because they thought he was afraid of the competition it would take for playing time at FSU?
"We had schools in recruiting throwing our names at each other: ‘You know, Florida is recruiting him.’ But you want to play with great players ... So we look at it as a positive thing more than a negative. ... We just talked about it and we decided let’s do it together."
I'm pretty sure they will. And they'll have some help too.
They Gators appear to be loaded on the defense line as well. Joining Bullard, Fowler and Easley on the line are household names like Damien Jacobs and Leon Orr among others and newcomers like Jay-nard Bostwick and Caleb Brantley. The Gators also have depth. And don't forget that Ronald Powell is back and healthy and will line up on the defensive line from time to time as well.
But remember, sacks don't tell the whole story. Tackles for loss and quarterback pressures are other great ways to judge the performance of defensive lines. As are rushing yards allowed and to some extent passing yards should be factored in as well.
When it came to tackles for loss, the Gators will surely miss Floyd and Elam. But I'm sure the Gators will be just fine. I think the defense will be just fine.
Just can't wait for things to get going.