Florida's All-Decade Team: Elite group of defensive backs leads the way
Editor’s note: Saturday Down South has selected an all-decade offensive and defensive team for all 14 SEC programs.
While Florida struggled at times during the past decade, especially on the offensive side of the ball, the one program constant was outstanding defense.
Florida finished in the top 25 nationally in total defense every season but one this decade, finishing in the top 10 nationally on 5 occasions. The Gators’ defensive efficiency numbers were equally impressive, with Florida ranking as a top 20 S&P+ defense in 9 of the 10 seasons from 2010-19.
You can’t play defense that salty without great players, and Florida has had plenty on the defensive side this decade, making the selection of the All-Decade team below extremely difficult.
How good has it been? Florida’s 1st-team All-Decade defense features an All-American or projected All-American at every spot but one. That’s filthy.
Here’s the Florida All-Decade defense (years reflect this decade only).
DE: Jonathan Greenard (2019)
A graduate transfer from Louisville, Greenard slotted into the big shoes left behind by Jachai Polite and turned in one of the finest seasons by a defensive end in Florida history. Playing in Todd Grantham’s BUCK (hybrid DE/OLB) spot, Greenard feasted, registering 51 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Greenard’s numbers are all the more impressive given that he missed the LSU and South Carolina games with an ankle injury, which also limited him against Georgia. His production was a big reason the 2019 Gators registered more team sacks (46) than any Florida defense since the one led by “The Freak” Jevon Kearse, in 1997.
DE: Jonathan Bullard (2012-15)
A consensus 1st-team All-American in 2015, Bullard was also a unanimous 1st-team All-SEC selection, leading the SEC with 17.5 tackles for loss. A 4-year starter, Bullard finished his career with 33.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks and was selected in the 3rd round of the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears.
Backup: Dante Fowler Jr. (2012-14). Fowler was a matchup nightmare, too fast for most offensive tackles and too strong and physical for tight ends. A 3-year contributor, Fowler was 1st-team All-SEC and 2nd-team All-America as a junior, collecting 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. A 1st-round draft pick, Fowler struggled with consistency with the Jacksonville Jaguars but eventually broke through with the Los Angeles Rams, whom he helped lead to the Super Bowl last season. Fowler edges out the consistency of Jabari Zuniga and the elite junior year of Polite for this spot.
DT: Sharrif Floyd (2010-12)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more dominant defensive tackle than Floyd, a 1st-team All-American in 2012 and unanimous 1st-team All-SEC selection. A 3-year starter, Floyd broke out as a junior in 2012, leading the nation’s No. 1-ranked defense with 8.5 tackles for loss. Floyd was selected third overall in the NFL draft, and he was playing very well for the Minnesota Vikings before an injury and controversial surgery — now the subject of a $180 million lawsuit — cut his career short.
DT: Jaye Howard (2010-11)
A 4-year contributor and 2-year starter, Howard was a run-stuffing force who collected 131 tackles in his Gators career. As a senior, he collected 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, ranking 2nd on the team in each category. Howard went on to play 6 seasons in the NFL after being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 4th round in 2012.
Backup: Taven Bryan (2014-17). In 2017, Bryan was a force in the middle for what otherwise was Florida’s weakest defense of the decade, powering through double and triple teams to collect 40 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. A two-year starter, Bryan garnered All-SEC honors as a junior and was selected in the 1st round by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
LB: Jarrad Davis (2013-16)
An All-American and finalist for the Dick Butkus award as a senior, it’s hard to imagine a tougher Florida Gator than Davis, who played through a painful ankle injury to lead the Gators to the SEC Championship Game as a senior. Davis finished a 4-year career with more than 200 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 2 SEC East titles as a team captain. A 1st-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions, Davis has started since his rookie season.
LB: Jon Bostic (2010-12)
An All-SEC performer as both a junior and senior, Bostic tallied 237 tackles in his 4-year career, leading the team in that category as a junior. With excellent speed, Bostic was tremendous as a coverage linebacker, collecting 5 interceptions in his Florida career along with 12 passes defended. A 2nd-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears, Bostic is currently with the Redskins and has played on 6 NFL teams in what is now an 8-season NFL career.
LB: Antonio Morrison (2012-15)
Morrison was a 4-year starter who overcame a devastating ACL injury to become a Butkus Award semifinalist, team captain and unanimous 1st-team All-SEC selection as a senior. Known as a bone-bruising hitter, Morrison collected 294 tackles in his career including a staggering 16 in Florida’s 38-10 win over No. 3 Ole Miss in 2015, a memorable performance that earned him National Defensive Player of the Week.
Backup: David Reese II (2016-19). A 4-year starter and tackling machine, Reese is a team captain who has tallied 316 — yes, 316 — tackles in his Florida career. A freshman All-American and consensus preseason All-SEC selection as a senior, Reese still has a chance to join Morrison as the only Gators with multiple 100-tackle seasons this decade, and his 16-tackle performance this season against Kentucky earned him National Defensive Player of the Week honors.
CB: Vernon Hargreaves III (2013-15)
A consensus 1st-team All-American and All-SEC corner, Hargreaves was a 3-year starter at Florida who was a team captain and finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s finest defensive back as a junior. Hargreaves was named an All-American in some capacity in all 3 of his seasons in Gainesville, and he finished his Gators career with 10 interceptions, 27 passes defended and 121 tackles. He was selected in the 1st round by his hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is now with the Houston Texans in the NFL.
CB: CJ Henderson (2017-19)
An All-SEC performer as a sophomore and consensus preseason All-American as a junior, Henderson was a 3-year starter for the Gators who intercepted 6 passes in his career and tallied 20 passes defended. Henderson also ranked 2nd nationally in completion percentage against (40.5) as a sophomore, per Stats Solutions, and led SEC corners in that category as a junior (41). Henderson declared for the NFL draft and will skip the Orange Bowl.
Backup: Janoris Jenkins (2010). Jenkins was a freshman All-American under Urban Meyer who blossomed into a 1st-team All-SEC selection and 3rd-team All-American at corner in 2010. Jenkins was dismissed by Will Muschamp for violations of team rules in 2011 and finished his career at North Alabama, but after nearly a decade in the NFL, where he has been named an All-Pro, Jenkins still declares himself a Gator on television broadcasts.
Safety: Matt Elam (2010-12)
A consensus 1st-team All-American and unanimous All-SEC selection as a junior, Elam was a force with a reputation as a bone-bruising hitter with a nose for the football. A 3-year starter, Elam collected 24 tackles for loss, 13 pass breakups, 6 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles in his 3-year Florida career. He will forever be remembered for this astonishing play on Odell Beckham Jr. in Florida’s win over No. 4 LSU in 2012.
Safety: Ahmad Black (2010)
Too often dismissed as too small or too slow, all Black did was make plays. A consensus All-American and All-SEC selection as a senior, Black earned Outback Bowl MVP honors in his final game as a Gator after a 2-interception performance in Florida’s win over Penn State.
Backup: Keanu Neal (2013-15). A thunderous hitter who was better than advertised in coverage, Neal finished 3rd on the Gators with 96 tackles as a junior, earning All-SEC honors. A 2-year starter and 3-year contributor, Neal keyed a Falcons run to the Super Bowl as a rookie and was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2017.
Punter: Johnny Townsend (2013-17)
Townsend, a Ray Guy Award finalist and two-time All-American, holds Florida’s single-season records for average yards per punt with 47.9 as a junior in 2016 and 47.5 as a senior in 2017. He led the nation in punting yardage in both his junior and senior seasons, and he parlayed a marvelous 4-year collegiate career into becoming a 5th-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2018.