Depth Improves Defensive Production

Depth Improves Defensive Production

The Florida defense couldn't handle injuries in 2011 because the team didn't have depth. That's not the case this year. After Jelani Jenkins went down, the Gators were able to plug in freshman Antonio Morrison and not skip a beat. The added depth has also helped the Florida defense to play well in the fourth quarter, where it hasn't allowed a point in three games this season.

Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is purposely putting in more players during the early parts of the game to keep the starters fresh for the fourth quarter. It saves the legs of the defensive linemen to help provide a pass rush when the game is decided in the fourth quarter.

"We are playing more players as part of our rotation. That was?really by design," Quinn said. "To finish a game and have some?rushers available in the fourth quarter, you need to be able to have a?defensive line that's able to go in there and still have the ability?to go do that.

The 2011 season was a struggle for the depth during games, but the practice field is where it was most noticeable. The Gators had to cross train players on the line of scrimmage just to have enough bodies to go through practice. Even then, practice could only go on for so long because there wasn't enough depth to keep players fresh.

The extra depth meant longer scrimmages in the preseason, but it also means more trusted players on the field for games this fall.

"It's been kind of part of the plan to build?some depth and be able to have more of a rotation where we could go?longer into the games and feel like at the end of the games, we could?still have a chance to affect the quarterback," Quinn said. "That was one thing we?really wanted to address, and then of course the guys we have and everyone coming back,?it's been a big emphasis for us. We'll continue to do that.

"Up front we were ready to play nine guys and at linebacker having two-deep to do that."

PLAN WITHOUT EASLEY: Will Muschamp said on the SEC Teleconference Wednesday morning that Dominique Easley remains questionable for Saturday with a knee injury. Muschamp said Monday that Easley was having some swelling on his knee, but it isn't the knee that he has surgically repaired in the offseason.

The Gators could elect to play it safe and not play him against Kentucky with a bye week coming after the game.

"If Easley was still limited then it would either be between (Earl) Okine or (Jonathan) Bullard at the defensive end spot," Quinn said about the starter. "As we're going through practice, that's which way we'd head if Dom couldn't."

KENTUCKY PASS GAME: The Florida defense is preparing for a different Kentucky offense this year. After stumbling with the ball in recent years, the Wildcats come to Gainesville with the top passing offense in the SEC.

Some of that comes from trailing in early games and having to throw the ball while other SEC teams have dominated out of conference competition, but Quinn is preparing his defense for a group that will air it out on Saturday.

The schematic preparation isn't much different than last week. It's a pass-heavy offense that features quarterback Maxwell Smith, but the caliber of players aren't what the Florida defense prepared for last year.

"There is a lot of similarity, especially with Tennessee and Kentucky, both of these teams, really know how to throw the ball," Quinn said. "With Kentucky leading the SEC in passing, they know how to do it and they know how to throw it. It's a real challenge for us as a defense this week moving forward."

MCCRAY LEADING ON DEFENSE: Lerentee McCray had his best game of the season against Tennessee by recording an interception and creating one with a pressure. He was Florida's most consistent defensive lineman with getting pressure on Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray.

His production has increased this year, but it's the leadership from the redshirt senior on the defensive side of the ball that is also important.

"Lerentee McCray is one of our most emotional leaders and players on our defense," Quinn said. "He provides a lot of the energy for our team by the way he plays and by the way he rushes. He provides a lot for our defense in terms of leadership, in terms of the way that he carries himself on the field. He adds toughness to our team.

"He's somebody that's really passionate about football and wants to do better. In the locker room, good teammate and then on the field, you can really count on him for his energy. He's tough and he brings it all the time."

FightinGators.com Recommended Stories


  • The Florida defense didn’t give up a first down until the Colonels’ fourth drive of the game, giving the offense time to settle in while the Gators dominated the line of scrimmage.

  • Dr. Roto highlights each and every game upcoming for Week 12 and a Fantasy matchup to monitor within. Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon (pictured above) makes his return against the less-than-stellar…

  • It has never been about effort for Will Muschamp’s teams at Florida. Some have focused on losing a game to Georgia Southern a year ago and how that should never happen and that is a valid point. Some…

  • The memories of their last game in The Swamp will be sweet for Florida’s 22 seniors and for outgoing head football coach Will Muschamp. Both the seniors and Muschamp started their Florida careers in…

  • Norman has seen a lot of special days, but few will compare to what Samaje Perine did Saturday in rushing for 427 yards and five touchdowns.