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Asking for more

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's Jonathan Bostic and Jelani Jenkins are solid players who make a lot of tackles and always seem to be in the proper position.

But coach Will Muschamp wants more production from the starting linebackers. During a recent scrimmage, neither was particularly impressive, and Muschamp says those two have to make more big plays for the Gators defense to be even better than it was in 2011.

"You'd like to have a little bit more production at the linebacker position," Muschamp said. "Not all their fault, though. We need to play blocks better up front. We need to take some double teams and not let them climb the next level so quickly, which we certainly haven't at times. I think Jon and Jelani were very solid. You'd just like to see a little more production."

Though he was talking about the scrimmage, it certainly applies to this fall. Bostic and Jenkins didn't make many big plays last season. It's probably unfair to single those two out, because the entire defense didn't make many big plays (only 14 forced turnovers), but they are the unquestioned leaders of the unit and therefore face the most criticism.

Bostic led the Gators with 94 tackles, and Jenkins was third with 75, but they combined for just 16 tackles for loss, five sacks, nine pass breakups, three forced fumbles and one interception. Jenkins had chances to make more big plays but dropped six interceptions in 2011.

Compare those stats to Alabama's linebacker duo of Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower. They combined for 29 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. One of Upshaw's 9.5 sacks knocked UF quarterback John Brantley out of 2½ games.

Those are the kinds of big plays the Gators need Bostic and Jenkins to make, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said.

"We are really counting on these linebackers to really make some plays," Quinn said. "When we're blitzing to make the play over here and there, to be in the coverage and get a batted ball or an interception. That kind of production is what we're talking about, maybe not just the tackle that happens in the tackle box but on the play that goes outside on a toss play and you run it down or the way that you blitz or the coverage on a tight end. I think both those guys have the explosiveness to create more big plays."

Both players admit they have to become playmakers in 2012. Big plays on defense win games, and the Gators didn't do enough of either last season.

"We're never really trying to stay complacent with where we're at," Jenkins said. "We're always trying to get better. I think we do need to make more plays, and I think that'll help out the team and keep getting the ball in our offense's hands."