Jon Bostic has been Florida’s starting middle linebacker for the past three seasons, and he has done an excellent job, and has helped consistently make Florida one of the top defenses in the country. Bostic, along with Matt Elam, has been a leader of the defense the past few seasons, making sure guys are in the right place and are aware of their assignments. Head coach of the Gators Will Muschamp repeatedly heaped praise on Bostic, citing his improvement every season, and stating he was one of the best linebackers in the country. If Muschamp did not actually think Bostic was one of the best, he would not say it, Muschamp is not the kind of guy to just randomly give praise to make guys feel good, he will openly say if he thinks a player is not playing up to the level he expects.
Bostic had a great career for the Gators, and is in a long line of good Florida linebackers. While most of the attention usually went to his teammate Jelani Jenkins this past season, Bostic actually had a better season than Jenkins. Jenkins was injured most of the year, so he was not as effective as he usually was, but when he was out and even after he came back, Bostic showed he was the better linebacker by playing better than Jenkins ever had. Bostic had 68 tackles in the 2012 season, along with 6.5 TFL, three sacks, and two interceptions. These are very good numbers for a linebacker, and yes he was playing behind a very good defensive line, but as we saw with Manti Te’o, a player can still be exposed even if they have an elite defensive line in front of them. He was named to the All-SEC second team on defense in 2012 as well.
Bostic attacks lanes in the running game, and will run through blocks to get his target. He has good pad level and presses with his hand immediately on contact. Bostic is a powerful tackler, and can stop an opposing player’s momentum, and can bring bigger ball carriers to the ground. He is able to beat blocks by most linemen, and even when he does not he stands his ground and stops them. Bostic hustles in coverage and he knows what his responsibilities on the tight ends or running backs he has to cover, and is very good at eliminating yards after the catch. Bostic is a vocal leader and moves his teammates into their correct spots, and he also has experience in both the 3-4 and 4-3 defenses.
Bostic will fit right in with the Bear’s defense, as he is a hard hitting linebacker who stays on his assignments and is a vocal leader, and he should start at one of the linebacker spots right away. Bostic will benefit from a having good defensive players all around him, the defensive line is rich with talent, as well as the secondary, plus they already have one other good linebacker in Lance Briggs. With these good pieces around him, there will not be as much pressure on Bostic to be the quarterback of the defense from day one, something that has hurt some rookies before. The Bears had Bostic on their radar during the entire draft process, and wasted no time putting in their card to draft Bostic. Bostic fell to the second round because he really isn’t ready just yet to start at middle linebacker, he needs at least a year, and would have to start at outside linebacker for now, which is a position that a lot of teams tend to devalue.
While Bostic is a good linebacker right now, he still has a few things he needs to work on for his NFL game. He has a lack of burst which can affect his first step, and limits some of his moves. Bostic can struggle at times to get off of better offensive linemen’s blocks, and can be stiff-armed by longer ball carriers. He hits with his shoulder a lot against the run, and can get sucked into blocks rather than being able to make a play on the ball. He has average speed, and quicker ball carriers can sometimes elude him and run away from him. Bostic will have to work on these things to be a successful NFL pro.
Michael Taylor is the man who will be replacing Jon Bostic no the Gator’s defense. Taylor was the #3 linebacker coming out of high school, and was a top target for the Gators. While Taylor is a pretty good player from the little we have seen of him so far, the vocal leadership ability of Bostic is going to be something surely missed this upcoming season for the Gators. Taylor has shown an ability to make plays; he blocked an extra point in the 2013 Sugar Bowl against Louisville. Taylor also had some big games against LSU and Kentucky, even getting an interception in the Kentucky game.
Jon Bostic had a good career for the Gators, and is one of the better linebackers out of the great ones we have seen in a few years. His vocal leadership and his physical presence will be sorely missed on the Gators defense, and while he has a replacement in line, there will still be a major void in the middle of the Gator’s defense without Bostic there to line everyone up. If Bostic can work on not being sucked into blocks, and not being stiff-armed by ball carriers, he could be a very good replacement for Brian Urlacher on the Bears defense, Bears fans will appreciate him as much as Gator fans did.