2022 Florida Football Season Preview: Linebackers

·6 min read

After going over the outside linebackers on Tuesday, the next position group up in Gators Wire’s position-by-position breakdown of the 2022 Florida Gators football roster are the middle linebackers, or inside linebackers.

This is the more traditional linebacker role and Florida’s scheme calls for two starters — the outside linebackers cover the JACK position that usually lines up with the DL, so that’s why they are separated. Last year’s No. 1 in the position room, Mohamoud Diabate, transferred to Utah over the offseason, but there’s still a decent amount of depth at the position.

Ventrell Miller is the leader of the group and should be the top inside linebacker on the team this year. Florida could have used his elite rushing defense several times in 2021, so he’ll be a major boost to the defense and help guide the younger players below him on the depth chart.

Florida only has six scholarship inside linebackers on its roster, which is a bit low considering the scheme it runs. The good news is most of them are ready for game action and there are outside linebackers, such as David Reese, that could change positions if the injury bug bites the Gators hard.

Here’s a look at all eight inside linebackers on the 2022 Florida football roster.

See also:

2022 Florida Football Season Preview: Quarterbacks

2022 Florida Football Season Preview: Running Backs

2022 Florida Football Season Preview: Wide Receivers

2022 Florida Football Season Preview: Tight Ends

2022 Florida Football Season Preview: Offensive Line

2022 Florida Football Season Preview: Defensive Line

2022 Florida Football Season Preview: Outside Linebackers

Starter: No. 51 Ventrell Miller (Sixth Year)

Ventrell Miller Gators
Ventrell Miller Gators

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Stats:

Year

GP

SOLO

AST

TOT

TFL-YDS

SACKS-YDS

INT

PD

FF

FR

2018

13

8

7

15

2-10

1-9

1

1

0

0

2019

12

27

28

55

5.5-27

3-20

0

2

0

0

2020

11

52

36

88

7.5-38

3.5-28

0

3

0

1

2021

2

3

5

8

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Total

38

90

76

166

15-75

7.5-57

1

6

0

1

Getting Miller back was huge for the Gators, although it’s unclear how much that had to do with the departure of Diabate. The thought of them together this year is salivating, but Miller should fare well even still. It’s his last chance to boost his draft stock, and he looked strong in fall camp.

The question for Miller will be whether he’s able to stay healthy or not. A torn bicep took him out in week two last year and he wore a non-contact jersey a few times during preseason camp. There’s a decent amount of depth behind Miller, but Florida won’t be at its best unless he’s on the field.

No. 2 Amari Burney (Fifth Year)

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Stats:

Year

GP

SOLO

AST

TOT

TFL-YDS

SACKS-YDS

INT

PD

FF

FR

2018

12

7

4

11

2-6

1-5

0

2

0

0

2019

9

20

17

37

0.5-1

0-0

1

2

0

1

2020

12

29

23

52

2.5-14

2-13

1

3

0

0

2021

13

24

20

44

1-4

0-0

0

3

0

0

Total

45

80

64

144

6-25

3-18

2

10

0

1

After starting off at Florida as a defensive back that manned the STAR position, [autotag]Amari Burney[/autotag] made the move to inside linebacker and served as a rotational piece in 2021. He appeared in all 13 games but started just two at the end of the year against FSU and UCF.

Now, Burney is set to be the Gators’ weak-side linebacker, alongside Ventrell Miller in a new system that may fit him better. This could be a breakout year for Burney, but there are plenty of ready-to-go players under him on the depth chart if he’s not up to the task.

Backups: No. 6 Shemar James (Fr.)

UAA Communications/Ashley Ray

[autotag]Shemar James[/autotag], the lone freshman of the group, has looked far beyond his years in fall camp, but he’s not a lock to be the first man up if someone goes down long-term. He should play frequently, though, and see increased snaps as the season goes on at weakside linebacker. Billy Napier has praised James as one of the more impressive young players on the team so far.

Backups: No. 15 Derek Wingo (Jr.)

UAA Communications/Courtney Culbreath

[autotag]Derek Wingo[/autotag] is the middle linebacker backup heading into the season. He made his first start in the Gasparilla Bowl last season and collected a career-high six tackles after appearing as a reserve in Florida’s other 12 games. He should be in a similar role this year behind Miller.

Third String: No. 30 Diwun Black (Jr.)

UAA Communications/Isabella Marley

[autotag]Diwun Black[/autotag] is another STAR position convert that saw action in 10 games during his first year at Florida in 2021. He transferred from Mississippi Gulf Coast CC as the nation’s top-rated JUCO recruit in his class, and this could be the year he gets his chance to play meaningful snaps. His athleticism makes him dangerous as a pass rusher and in coverage, so expect him to be in on a few obvious passing plays.

Third String: No. 17 Jeremiah "Scooby" Williams (R-Fr.)

UAA Communications photo by Jordan McKendrick

[autotag]Jeremiah Williams[/autotag], or Scooby as he likes to be called, took a redshirt after appearing in four games last year. He’s the last man on the depth chart right now, but there are only six scholarship players in the position room. That means he could easily wind up seeing action with the second team early on and earn himself some more snaps.

Walk Ons: No. 42 Kenny Anyaehie (R-Jr.) and No. 47 Justin Pelic (R-Jr.)

UAA Communications/Isabella Marley

Despite needing two inside linebackers for most snaps, the Gators only have six scholarship players listed at the position to start the year. Fortunately, the room is fairly deep and Florida and the team has enough outside linebackers to fill in the gaps inside if necessary.

But there are two walk-on players that are practicing with the team in case of an emergency. [autotag]Kenny Anyaehie[/autotag] joined the team as a preferred walk on over the summer after spending three years at Temple. He walked on there as well and failed to see action during his time with the Owls, opting to sit out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns.

[autotag]Justin Pelic[/autotag] has been with the team for three years now. He walked on in the summer of 2019 and hasn’t appeared in any games since then. He’s made the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll twice and still has three years of eligibility left, though.

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire