Heavy Package – Florida's answer to Alabama ground attack


Published: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 5:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 5:32 p.m.

The Florida Gators unveiled their Heavy Package on defense in Knoxville two weeks ago, a new scheme designed to cope with Tennessee's power running game.

But it's pretty obvious the Heavy Package was not conceived in the offseason with Tennessee and Tauren Poole in mind.

This was all about Alabama and Mark Ingram (and Trent Richardson).

The Florida coaches won't come right out and say it, but the Heavy Package is Florida's answer to Alabama, to what the Tide inflicted on the Gators in last December's SEC Championship Game.

"I certainly gave thought to it," UF coach Urban Meyer said.

Ingram and the Tide gashed the Florida defensive front in a big way last season in Atlanta, marching through the Gators for 251 yards rushing in Alabama's 32-12 domination of America's No. 1 team.

Florida's response has been the Heavy Package — a scheme that features five defensive linemen in an attempt to add bulk and muscle in defending a power running game. In other words, Alabama's power running game.

Here's basically how it works: Starting defensive tackle Jaye Howard, who tips the scales at 300-plus pounds, moves outside to end, another defensive tackle (Terron Sanders, Sharrif Floyd, Brandon Antwine or Lawrence Marsh) is inserted inside for Howard, and defensive end Duke Lemmens shifts to strong-side linebacker.

The Heavy Package has been a hefty success so far.

The Gators used it to effectively stuff Poole and the Vols power game, limiting UT to a mere 29 yards rushing.

UF used the package some against Kentucky last Saturday and again had success.

But the Gators are facing a whole different animal in Alabama's two-headed tailback monster of Ingram, last season's Heisman Trophy winner, and Richardson, who runs just as hard and may have even a bigger up side than Ingram.

"Not only is that probably the best running back corps in the history of college football with those two guys, they also have a great offensive line," Lemmens said. "It's a great task for us. But it's why you come to Florida, for games like this."

The best in the history of college football?

"They're up there," Lemmens said. "In my lifetime (they're the best). They're very good. I have a lot of respect for them as players."

After what Ingram and Richardson did to the Gators in last year's SEC title game, ganging up on the run is UF's No. 1 defensive priority Saturday night.

"We didn't do the things we needed to do to succeed in that game (last season)," UF outside linebacker Brandon Hicks said. "Now that that (Heavy) package is in, I feel that we're going to use everything fundamentally, every ounce of skill level, every ounce of energy we have, to make us successful (against the run)."

The Heavy Package likely will be in heavy demand.

"I got my lunch pail and I'm ready to go to practice wherever they tell me to go," Lemmens said. "I know (the Heavy Package) will be part of our thing this week, and I'm just ready to help out as much as I can wherever I can."

Going big up front (in size and numbers) brings with it a potential big risk.

When the Gators put seven or eight men in the box to stop the run, it will leave Florida's cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage against the Tide's fast and talented wide receivers. And one of those receivers, 6-foot-4, 220-pound Julio Jones, is a physical freak and a potential nightmare matchup for even the best cornerbacks.

"How do you stop a great running back? You load the box, you plus-one him and don't miss a tackle," Meyer said. "Unfortunately, when you do that, you are now leaving your corner on an island with probably the first receiver that's going to be picked in the NFL Draft. That's the balancing game. We are going to have to play at a very high level."

The good news for the Gators is their secondary has been the strength of the defense so far this season. UF has returned three interceptions for touchdowns and intercepted at least two passes in every game (12 on the season).

"It's definitely going to be a big challenge this week," cornerback Jeremy Brown said. "We'll probably bring someone else in the box and that will leave us on an island. It's something we've got to step up to. Their receivers are great."

Alabama has one of the most balanced offenses in college football. The Tide can beat you on the ground or through the air.

It's pick-your-poison kind of deal. From UF's perspective, stopping the run comes first, and that's where the Heavy Package comes into play.

"It's nothing different from what we do every other week," free safety Will Hill said. "We have eight men in the box and put our corners on an island. We have total confidence in our corners and how they're playing.

"We have to play sound football and prepare right and make sure everyone stays on task."

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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