Gators seek to regain edge on defense

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Florida linebacker Vosean Joseph sacks LSU quarterback Joe Burrow during their game Oct. 6 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Gators beat the Tigers 27-19. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

In wins at Tennessee and Mississippi State and at home against LSU, the Florida defense played with what defensive coordinator Todd Grantham likes to refer to as an edge.

The Gators were flying around, playing fast and physical and with relentless effort, straining to give their best effort on every play, refusing to let go of that rope.

When they played with that edge, they impacted games, won games.

When they played with that edge, they came up with momentum-changing sacks and turnovers.

Playing with an edge is what the UF defense was all about earlier this season. It gave the Gators their identity.

But during the bye week three weeks ago, the Gators somehow lost their edge. Now, after back-to-back one-side losses to Georgia and Missouri, the defense is desperate to get it back.

“It’s like I told the guys, you need to go back and look how you felt in the locker room after playing at Mississippi State, how you felt after winning at Tennessee, when we played LSU and beat them,” Grantham said. “You’ve got to make sure that you give relentless effort and you give that strain every snap.

“Everything you do, whether it’s walk through in the morning before the game, whether it’s your five plays or 50 plays. Whatever it is, there’s a certain standard that you’ve got to play to. If you’re not doing that you’re cheating yourself and our team.

“We’ve got to make sure that we play with that edge to allow us to compete against the people we’re playing against.”

Playing with an edge in those big earlier victories, the Gators produced turnovers, sacks, quarterback pressures and all kinds of big, negative plays.

Without the edge in the losses to Georgia and Missouri, the defense combined for only two sacks (one when Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock was forced out of bounds just shy of the line of scrimmage), no turnovers  and only two quarterbacks hurries, none against the Tigers last Saturday.

The lack of turnovers and sacks has had a big impact in the losses.

“If you go back and look at the games in the SEC we’ve won, we’ve been able to affect the quarterback and create turnovers to allow us to win the game as a team,” Grantham said. “We haven’t done that the last two weeks. I can go back and show plays where we’re close, but close doesn’t get it done. It’s a production business and you’ve got to find ways to finish.

“Everybody can be a part of that, whether it’s tighter coverage, better get off, or maybe one guy eating up another guy for somebody. Everybody can be a part of that as a team to find a way to get those turnovers, to find a way to affect the quarterback to allow us to be functional.”

The Gators aren’t sure how or why they lost their edge on defense. But they do remember how they first got it. It started developing after the early loss to Kentucky, with a change in attitude and approach on the practice field.

Relentless effort and more physical play was stressed by Dan Mullen and the coaches. And the players bought in.

They’re trying to get back to that approach this week, with a potent South Carolina offense approaching.

“It’s all an aspect of a team effort,” junior middle linebacker David Reese said. “We’ve just got to get back to the grind, get back to the basics and work hard and find the answers through our hard work.”

Florida’s defense lost the edge it found early in the season. Now, the Gators are trying to get it back.

It’s all part of a process that this team is going through in Mullen’s first season.

“It’s still a young team,” Grantham said. “If you look, we’ve got a lot of guys coming back next year. Everything we do is a growing process. To be able to go to Jacksonville and play in that type of atmosphere as a top-10 team, it was a learning experience for us.

“The thing we’ve got to understand is that every week matters. Every week is important in this league. Everybody’s good. We need to make sure that we play with a certain edge to allow us to play to our opponents. If we do that, we’re fine. If we don’t, we’re going to have what happened on Saturday.”

15 COMMENTS

  1. OK — call it “edge” now. Whatever you call it, the whole team has lost it and not just the defense. Drive, guts, spunk, pluck, character, now edge………semantics don’t matter. Had it once, lost it, time to find it again or else this building effort of Mullen & Company may take longer than thought.

    • Gator-6, don’t forget that this is CDM’s first year and he will be recruiting his players to elevate the GATORS team. He has done pretty well with the young men on this team, but the team should get better yearly with him bringing his type of players. The QB position has hurt us for far too long, so I believe we will see changes in the future. We need to upgrade some positions and add much needed depth. I can’t wait for recruiting day! GO GATORS!!!

      • I can’t wait either, Ed — and I really want him to have every edge possible. I’m a big Dan Mullen fan, I think he put together a pretty good class last year considering the time he had, but that’s a minority opinion according to some folks on here. 9-3 or 8-4, either with a good bowl game…..that should be the boost needed for his first “real” recruiting season. Go Gators, bud.

  2. It almost appears that Grantham is peeping slightly ahead to next year “It’s still a young team”, “If you look, we’ve go a lot of guys coming back NEXT year”, everything we do is a growing process. Now I maybe looking to far into this, but I hope the coaches haven’t thrown in the towel. If that is just referring to the SEC east, then i’m on board, but don’t give up on the season, it’s whats left that can HELP with RECRUITING and everybody knows we need help (especially at O-LINE).

  3. Only the dbs are young. Everybody else is a junior or senior. You can’t think that every player is going to be a junior or senior. That’s not the case with the best teams. These guys have on fog glasses. We are getting the ball run down our throat. It doesn’t take an older secondary to stop the run. Kentucky ran for 300+ yards, UGA for 189, and Mizz 221. Then you have charleston southern 222, and lsu 180. There is no regain the edge. The only thing that was stopping those teams before were sacks and turnovers. We aren’t getting either anymore. Stop our DEs and the defense doesn’t get pressure. Our DTs aren’t good and frankly Reese is the only linebacker that plays. Joseph is more of an athlete playing linebacker. One game wonder-Half of his TFLs and Sacks were against LSU. Polite, Zuniga, Joseph and Reese have been starting for 2 years now. Alabama’s defense is almost all sophomores and juniors and a couple freshmen. Same as ours. Every starter for us next year will be a junior or senior if we start the same crew as day 1. That isn’t common.

    We haven’t been a stout defense all year. We’ve counted on timely big plays to stop the opposing offense. If we don’t get a sack or turnover, the opposing offense has a good chance of scoring no matter where they start on the field.

    • I’m pretty sure he specifically said multiple times in the article that playing with edge resulted in a lot of turnovers and sacks, and didn’t say anything about stopping the run, so not sure what your rant is about. Everything he said was exactly right, when they were getting turnovers and sacks they were winning and now they’re not. I’m not sure why you keep making comparisons to Bama either. They’ve had top 3 classes for like 10 years now. They’re on a completely different level than pretty much every team in college football. You’re right that a lot of the starters are Juniors and Seniors, but there’s plenty of young guys getting a lot of playing time, so whether you start or not doesn’t really make a difference, they’re still getting a ton of experience. The defense will be much better next season, especially in the secondary. The bigger worry is basically losing the entire offensive line, but that may actually be a good thing.

  4. Wow Pat reported Feleipe will start but be on a shorter leash. He is a world class wide receiver not QB. As I said since summer please listen to Kaleo on you tube. Its about Franks. Here are the lyrics.
    Way Down We Go
    Kaleo
    Father tell me, we get what we deserve
    Oh we get what we deserve
    And way down we go
    Way down we go
    Say way down we go
    Way down we go
    You let your feet run wild
    Time has come as we all oh, go down
    Yeah but for the fall oh, my
    Do you dare to look him right in the eyes?
    ‘Cause they will run you down, down til the dark
    Yes and they will run you down, down til you fall
    And they will run you down, down til you go
    Yeah so you can’t crawl no more
    And way down we go
    Way down we go
    Say way down we go
    ‘Cause they will run you down, down til you fall
    Way down we go
    Oh bab-bab-yeah
    Wow baby
    Baby
    Bab, down we go
    Yeah
    And way down we go
    Way down we go
    Say way down we go
    Way down we go
    Next year could be different. Please Coach make Feleipe a wide receiver. He could be an All American player not QB. Mcelwain ruined Franks as a QB. Don’t follow the song written for Feleipe. Write a new one!!!!!!!!

  5. UGA and UM did something no other team has done to UF, another TE to help block and keep RB’s in for blocking. KS seen how to slow down the UF Defense and UM followed suit. If you have 5 or 6 guys rushing and 7 blocking odds go to the 7 to get the job done especially when you factor seasoned QB’s into the mix and a young secondary. Sorry guys, smells like those odds are stacked against any Defense. I’m still sticking to my own thought that CDM and the rest of the coaching staff are just trying to make it through this season with what they have. They know they don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle, which is evident, but given time they will. WE as fans need to support them. Mr LT, you seriously must be a mac lover as much as you defend him. This Offense, that didn’t do well in one game this season, has been for the most part pretty good. Did anyone happen to notice that during the UGA game UF’s 1st 3 n out came in the 3rd quarter? That’s something your hero couldn’t get them to do either LT. The stats from last season to this season clearly show’s improvement on that side of the ball!! Geoff Collins is the ONLY reason we made the SECCG 2 years in a row during mac’s tenure. mac NEVER fixed an Offense he was brought in to fix to begin with! Heck, he didn’t even know how to develop a QB, evident with FF and KT! He hurt them both rather than help them. Reasoning behind the poor play of FF.I read someone said Driskel wasn’t very good? He transfers and throws for 3400 yards but he isn’t very good? Poor development was our QB woes!! Given time, the MIGHTY GATORS will return to their true form of winning championships, we just have to endure the growing pains. One last thing, Muschump and Mac were trying to build a team to just compete in the SEC, Mullen is building a CHAMPION!!! BIG DIFFERENCE! Patients my friends, you will see the payoff by the end of next season!! Gooooooooo GATORS!!!!!!