Freshmen Show Up for Gator Secondary
Jaylen Watkins
Jaylen Watkins
FightinGators.com Insider
Posted Sep 12, 2010


Teryl Austin used last week’s practices to prepare his freshmen cornerbacks for this situation. Behind starters Janoris Jenkins and Jeremy Brown, the three freshmen were the next line of defense. Jeremy Brown went down with a full body cramp, and the three freshmen were forced into the game.

“Those guys did well,” Teryl Austin said. “We’ve been putting the pressure on them. We needed to have that from these young guys. I told them that they’re all going to play and we had to find which ones were ready to go. We’ve been pushing them hard in case this scenario that played out today happened, and it did.”

Cody Riggs was the first of the freshmen into the game to start the second half. He broke on a short route by the wide receiver, diving to record the first pass breakup of his career. Jaylen Watkins came in the game later and used a big hit to knock the ball loose after the receiver thought he secured the ball. Joshua Shaw also saw the field at different positions

The freshmen made their impact felt. Instead of playing timid in their first meaningful snaps, all three were aggressive and played without being scared to make a mistake. Austin wouldn’t let them see the field if they played any different.

“The one thing we talk about as a secondary is that when the ball is in the air, it’s as much ours as it is theirs,” Austin said. “If you had a proper read and your keys are right, we want you to go after the ball. Try to make an interception because those interceptions are game changing plays.”

It’s easier for the freshmen to feel comfortable in the game when Jenkins is lined up on the other side of the field. The junior has recorded two interceptions, four pass breakups and one sack through two games. Jenkins has shut down half of the field well enough that Austin wouldn’t trade him for any cornerback in the country.

“He’s the best,” Austin said. “I don’t coach all the other guys, but I know this. He’s pretty doggone good. I’m so glad I have him on our team. He’s the best. If there is anyone better, I’d love to see him.”

The Florida defense didn’t start out sharp. USF quarterback B.J. Daniels led a 96-yard drive to give the Bulls an early 7-0 lead. Daniels secured five third-down conversions on the drive, with multiple created because of Daniels’ elusiveness. Mistakes by the Florida defense also made things easier.

“We had three penalties in the opening drive and bad tackling,” Austin said. We had some missed assignments in that opening drive. We went back and looked at what we did wrong.”

The defense improved as the game went on, but Austin still has plenty of film to show his group where improvement is necessary. With SEC play starting in Knoxville next weekend, the Gators must put an increased focus on wrapping up the ball carrier.

“I still was disappointed in how we tackled today,” Austin said. “We gave up some big runs because we missed some tackles, but that quarterback is a good player. We didn’t tackle the way we’re capable and expected to tackle.”

Two key momentum swings came from a position that has been under heat. Senior defensive ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens have combined for one sack this season, but their impact came in a different manner Saturday.

With the game tied and the USF drive at Florida’s 21-yard line, Lemmens recovered a fumble by running back Demetri Murray.

Two touchdowns later, Trattou had a 35-yard interception for a touchdown that pushed Florida’s lead to 28-7. The seniors continue to search for consistent pressure, but they are finding other ways to get involved.

Against a scrambling quarterback like Daniels, pressure isn’t the aim. It’s more about containing him from being able to break a long run.

“With a quarterback like that, you have to keep him contained,” Austin said. “If he’s not contained, he’s going to cause a lot of problems. We tried to make sure we kept the edge to our defense and kept the quarterback inside as much as we could. That’s why they were able to make plays.”
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