UF defense faces new challenge

Published: Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

With a young defense, each week, each game presents a new and unique challenge. This week, the Florida defenders are trying to tackle a testy two-pronged challenge.

Scripting a game plan to stop one of the SEC's best tailbacks and preparing to face two vastly different quarterbacks.

"It's going to be a challenge for us," senior defensive tackle Clint McMillan said. "It's like this every week in the SEC. We're ready to step up to it."

The Gators have a pretty good idea how to handle the first half of the challenge, having shut down Arian Foster and Tennessee's ground a week ago. That game plan, or one very similar to it, probably will be in effect for Ole Miss tailback BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who is averaging 123.7 yards rushing a game and is the focal point of the Rebels' offense.

"Every week in the SEC you're going to face a back that's probably going to rush for 1,000 to 1,200 yards (during the season)," McMillan said. "This is just another game where we've got to step up and stop the run. He's a great back and they have a huge offensive line.

"We have to play like we did last week. To stop the run in the SEC, you have to pound and fight and scrap for 50 or 60 plays a week. It's something a lot of the young guys have to get used to. There are a lot of great backs in the SEC. He's another one."

Containing Green-Ellis is UF's No. 1 defensive goal.

Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron confirms that UF's priorities are in order.

"When BenJarvus goes, we go," Orgeron said Wednesday. "When teams stop BenJarvus, our offense stops a little bit. He's the catalyst on our football team."

The 225-pound Green-Ellis, a transfer from Indiana, rushed for 1,000 yards last year and is well on pace for another 1,000-yard season. He's big enough to run over defenders and quick enough to get around them.

"Our key is to stop the run," co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong said. "(Green-Ellis) is doing a good job right now. He's a strong, powerful runner and a good downhill back. We have to get him on the ground. We have to wrap him up and tackle him."

Containing Green-Ellis is the tough part of UF's dual challenge.

The trickiest part is preparing for polar opposite quarterbacks.

Seth Adams is a dropback passer and the No. 1 quarterback. He pulled himself out of last Saturday's loss to Vanderbilt with a sprained shoulder and has missed practice time this week. Orgeron said Adams will play Saturday, but the Gators have continued to prepare for athletic former starter Brent Schaeffer, assuming they will have to defend both quarterbacks Saturday.

"(The defense) is actually going back and looking at film of last year (when Schaeffer was the Ole Miss starter)," UF coach Urban Meyer said. "He's certainly a much different quarterback (than Adams). I read somewhere where they might put in a few plays (Schaeffer) is good at. Obviously, the athleticism concerns you."

It's one more challenge for a young defense that seems to be maturing with each new experience.

"If they play two quarterbacks, we'll be prepared for it," sophomore outside linebacker Dustin Doe said. "We're going to go out and play sound, solid football. We're going to make the right reads, hit the right gaps and run to the ball.

"We are growing up. We're developing more than we're growing up. We're getting a lot of experience, and that's the key to our success."

Robbie Andreu can be reached at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com.

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