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The Florida Gators may not have linebacker Ventrell Miller in the lineup for their game against the Crimson Tide Saturday.
Miller, a team captain and the leading tackler from 2020, being sidelined would deal a major blow to a defense that is trying to do the seemingly impossible: slow down the high-powered Tide offense.
Defensive end Zachary Carter sounds optimistic, though, in the face of adversity.
“Well, we have a lot of guys that have a veteran presence on the defense,” Carter said. “We got some guys that transferred in that, you know, they’re pretty much some of the oldest guys on the defense with the most experience.”
Carter is referring to defensive line transfers Antonio Shelton, Daquan Newkirk, and Tyrone Truesdell, each a fifth-year senior. Junior cornerback Jadarrius Perkins can also pick up the slack as an on-field communicator in Miller’s absence.
“Ventrell, he’s a great guy and a great teammate, great leader, but I feel like we shouldn’t have an issue picking up with that leadership role,” Carter said. “Guys just have to, you know, they have to step up.”
Some other linebackers who can step up and contribute are Jeremiah Moon, Amari Burney, Mohamoud Diabate, and Ty’Ron Hopper.
Moon moved inside from the rush linebacker position, and has already made 11 tackles as a result, a team-high. Burney seems comfortable, too, now after moving from cornerback to linebacker, posting four tackles and three quarterback pressures against USF. Both Moon and Burney were named UF’s defensive players of the week for Week Two.
Hopper, a redshirt sophomore and former blue chip recruit, has all of the physical gifts needed to be a SEC linebacker, but so far has been limited in snaps as a Gator. That could certainly change Saturday.
“My role’s going to get a little bigger, but I’m here for the challenge,” Hopper exclaimed on Tuesday. “I’m focusing on getting better every week.”
FanDuel Sportsbook lists the Gators as massive (+14.5) underdogs in the Swamp, which leaves the door open for massive backdoor cover potential. When it comes to the Tide, take the first half spread, and then reassess at halftime—Alabama is notorious for a hot start and a slow finish, since many of their starters get pulled in blowouts.