Notebook: Gators searching for pass rush

Published: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 7:17 p.m.

Before the season, Florida players and coaches vowed there would be a steady pass rush generated this year.

Well, through eight games this season, Florida has generated only 15 sacks, good enough for eighth in the SEC and is one less than Miami (Ohio).

Though the Gators (5-3, 3-3 SEC) squeaked out a 34-31 victory in overtime Saturday, they registered two sacks and allowed Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray to pass for a career-high 313 yards.

Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney said he's concerned by his line's inability to generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Since recording six sacks at Tennessee, Florida has totaled just six since.

McCarney said he doesn't need to see sacks pile up on the stat sheet to be satisfied, but does want disruption to cut down on the time quarterbacks have to throw.

"They don't have nine or 10 seconds, but you don't have to leave quarterbacks back there very long (before) they can hurt you," McCarney said Tuesday.

"You don't have to get seven or eight sacks, but we have to disrupt the timing and get that quarterback moving around more back there before he throws the ball."

To improve in this area, McCarney said his players will go through more drills in practice and must start paying more attention to their technique when engaging offensive players, as poor hand placement can slow momentum when attempting to get through lines.

Besides cleaning up things in practice, McCarney said the line would benefit from getting its sack leader back. Junior defensive lineman Jaye Howard left the Mississippi State game two weeks ago after spraining his ankle and missed the Georgia game. McCarney is unsure if Howard, who has 2.5 sacks this year, will be ready when Florida travels to Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-4 SEC).

What's troubling is that Howard still leads Florida in sacks after getting two in the opener.

With senior Lawrence Marsh also not 100 percent and Brandon Antwine out with multiple injuries, McCarney made the most of his depth against Georgia by using freshman Sharrif Floyd. The Gators also finally got valuable time out of freshman Dominique Easley.

McCarney said he's been really impressed with how much progress Floyd has made and hopes he can help fill the void in Florida's pass rush.

"He's one of the most improved players on our defense now," McCarney said. "He's one of the most talented, most mature freshmen I've ever been around and I've been doing this a lot of years."

Junior safety Will Hill said the defensive line isn't doing anything wrong, but injuries and the youth of the reserves is hurting production.

"We have to get better on the defensive line every week," Hill said. "Jaye Howard has been hurt and we have a couple freshmen coming in. I know they've played some, but they haven't been playing a lot, so we have to get them a lot more confidence too."

No talk with Minnesota

McCarney's name has surfaced in connection with the head coach opening at Minnesota, but he says he has not been contacted.

"No communication (with Minnesota officials)," McCarney said. "None whatsoever."

McCarney served as Iowa State's head coach from 1995-2006 before coaching defensive lines at South Florida and UF. When asked if he has any interest in becoming a head coach again, McCarney said his only focus was on this week's opponent.

"We'll just have to wait and see," he said. "Right now, we're just trying to beat Vanderbilt."

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