GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators are rebuilding their defensive line with help from the transfer portal, as they have officially welcomed former Auburn defensive tackle DaQuan Newkirk and ex-Penn State defensive tackle Antonio Shelton to the program.
Newkirk entered the NCAA transfer portal Monday after spending three years with the Tigers. The 6-foot-3, 317-pound Orlando native started every regular-season game for Auburn in 2020. He skipped the team’s bowl game.
Newkirk notched 28 tackles, including 1.5 sacks, last season. He will be a graduate transfer for the Gators in 2021 after playing sparingly in 2018 and ’19.
Shelton enrolled at Florida last week for his sixth year of eligibility. He’s continuing his collegiate career thanks to an NCAA blanket waiver that gives athletes an extra year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Shelton started 20 games at Penn State. The 6-foot-2, 327-pound Columbus, Ohio, native finished the 2020 season with 14 tackles, including 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 pass defended. He was honorable mention on the All-Big Ten teams.
Florida is revamping its defense after the team’s worst season on that side of the ball in more than a hundred years. Coach Dan Mullen fired secondary coaches Ron English and Torrian Gray earlier this month and replaced them with former Auburn assistant Wesley McGriff, who surely helped land Newkirk.
The Gators (8-4), who ended the season ranked No. 13, allowed 30.8 points a game in 2020. It was their most since giving up an average of 41.2 points over six games in 1917.
Florida’s line was one of the defense’s few strengths, though. The Gators led the Southeastern Conference in sacks, averaging nearly three a game.
Outside linebacker Jeremiah Moon and defensive end Zachary Carter, who led the team with five sacks, already announced plans to stay in school and play another season. With that pair, the two transfers and another year of development for Brenton Cox and Gervon Dexter, Florida should have another formidable front in 2021.