GatorNation position breakdown: ILB

Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday through Jan. 31, 2013, GatorNation will break down each position. We’ll look at 2013, of course, but also try and give you a peek beyond next season, too. Today is inside linebacker. We will profile cornerbacks on Jan. 1.


Two-deep: Senior Jon Bostic is the starter and he is backed up by redshirt sophomore Michael Taylor. Bostic has started 25 consecutive games and is third on the team with 62 tackles. He also has 3.0 sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Taylor has 29 tackles and 1.0 sack.

Next up: The Gators don’t have any other true middle linebackers on the roster. Bostic has been so durable that depth hasn’t been an issue. The Allstate Sugar Bowl against Louisville will be his final game.

High-profile commits: James Hearns (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln) is the only inside linebacker commit the Gators have. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound four-star recruit is a member of the ESPN 300 and is the No. 10 inside linebacker prospect. He’s a big, strong, physical player who excels at stopping the run but is athletic enough to stay on the field on passing downs.

Additional targets: The Gators are pursuing Trey Johnson of Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett. The 6-1, 215-pound Johnson is the nation’s No. 2 inside linebacker prospect. He is scheduled to visit Florida in January. UF coach Will Muschamp would love to sign another inside linebacker if possible.

Looking into 2013: The Gators aren’t deep at inside linebacker. Taylor should inherit the starting job, and Hearns and Johnson -- if they sign -- will get plenty of playing time. UF has been spoiled with the run of middle linebackers it has had for more than a decade: Brandon Siler, Brandon Spikes and Bostic. Taylor isn’t close to that level. He’s fine against the run but struggles in pass coverage and can’t be an every-down linebacker. Another option would be shuffling guys around, with Jenkins or possibly OLB Antonio Morrison (provided he gains some weight) playing inside.