Gators preparing for Seminoles' talented defense


Florida quarterback John Brantley runs to the sideline during the first half of the Gators' game against Appalachian State at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida November 20, 2010.

Rob C. Witzel/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, November 22, 2010 at 4:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 22, 2010 at 4:10 p.m.

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Florida Gators will face a Florida State defense Saturday that is not coached by Mickey Andrews, the Seminoles' longtime defensive coordinator.

With no Mickey for the first time in 25 years, the Seminoles have a new look and a new style on defense.

"It's really much different," UF coach Urban Meyer said Monday. "Mickey is a one-hole, one man-coverage (defensive coordinator). They had a few standard blitzes they would bring in and they knew exactly what they were doing."

The same FSU defense that Galen Hall, Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook and Meyer went up against down through the years has been replaced by a Stoops defense — Mark Stoops, the brother of Oklahoma coach (and former UF defensive coordinator) Bob Stoops.

"This group is very similar to his brother, Bob Stoops," Meyer said. "It's a very sound defense like we faced in the national championship game (in 2008). It's not so much a blitzathon as it is execution of the defense. There's not as much man coverage. They'll play man coverage, but it was every snap in the past."

Stoops' defense is different than Andrews', but the Seminoles are seeing similar results, especially in two critical areas — sacks and tackles for loss.

FSU is second in the nation in sacks with 41 and ninth nationally in tackles for loss with 82.

Those numbers could mean big trouble for a Florida offense that has had a season-long problem protecting quarterback John Brantley, who has been sacked 15 times in the past six games. There was one four-game stretch (LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia and Vanderbilt) where Brantley was sacked three times in each game.

The Seminoles are averaging 3.72 sacks per game.

It adds up to a potential big negative for the Gators in Tallahassee.

"There is so much involved (in pass protection), whether it's missing assignments in the offensive line or running backs involved in protection or the fullback," Meyer said. "If it was one issue, we would have corrected that issue.

"At times, we have protected very well. But this is a problem (this week). Those guys are really coming up. They're not a big blitz team, not one of those Star Wars defenses. They play sound defense with very good players."

In recent games, Brantley has faced a steady diet of blitzes that have resulted in lots of sacks, quarterback hurries and negative plays (like Brantley catching his own tipped pass for a 10-yard loss in the South Carolina game).

The Seminoles have managed to generate a steady and strong pass rush without having to blitz, the way those FSU defenses did so often under Andrews.

"FSU is a great defense," Brantley said. "All those guys they have there, I'm sure we tried to recruit them. They have a lot of speed, a lot of talent. We have to try and find areas where we can attack them."

Meyer said Brantley has to be aware of the pass rush — and when to get out of the pocket and throw the ball away.

Meyer said at times, Brantley has had a tendency to hold on to the ball too long.

"We've got to do better with that," Meyer said. "Sometimes you have to burn (a down by throwing the ball away), as opposed to getting in second-and-17. That's a tough deal.

"The quarterbacks need to learn that, and we need to keep pushing that."

The Seminoles will be coming hard after Brantley on Saturday. In that regard, the FSU defense has not changed under a new coordinator.

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

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