Gators excited about new defense

Sophomore Jelani Jenkins takes part in spring practice on Monday. (Photo courtesy UF Communications)

Published: Monday, March 21, 2011 at 8:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 21, 2011 at 8:23 p.m.

Most of the spring buzz at Florida has centered around Charlie Weis and the new pro-style offense that's being installed.

But the offensive players aren't the only Gators jacked up about a new coordinator bringing in a system from the NFL. The defensive players have an NFL guy, too — and a pro-style attack that they're eager to adopt.

“I love the new defense,” outside linebacker Lerentee McCray said. “I really can't explain how it is. You've just got to see it on the field. It's a different concept, a different style of defense.”

Former Seattle Seahawks defensive line coach Dan Quinn and former perennial All-Pro defensive tackle Bryant Young have brought an NFL look and feel to the Florida defense.

The changes may not be quite as dramatic and obvious as those that are going on with the offense, but there's a lot of new and exciting stuff going into the defensive package.

“Our whole defense, everybody is eager to learn. Everyone wants to work,” junior middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic said. “I like it. There's a lot of carryover from last year, but we're blitzing a lot and have a lot of different looks.

“That's what I'm excited about, a lot of different looks.”

Just like their counterparts on offense, the Gator defensive players are pretty much learning a new system on the run. There's something new thrown at them every day in practice, sophomore outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins said.

“Everything is different,” Jenkins said. “We've got a whole new playbook. Every day we get new plays, and we're just learning. A lot of it is different. Some stuff is carryover. But every day we get new stuff.

“We don't know the whole playbook yet. They're still throwing in a whole lot of plays every day. I think everybody is very excited about the new things that are going in. There are a lot of great plays that they came up with.

“I think everybody is excited. We're just out there practicing, working hard and having fun.”

One of the happiest Gators of all appears to be true sophomore Ronald Powell, who is playing the new Buck position — a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end position that seems to fit his multiple skill set.

“It's a great fit for me, a great fit,” said Powell, who was rated the No.1 prospect in the nation coming out of high school a year ago. “(Defensive coordinator) Dan Quinn and (defensive line coach) Bryant Young are great coaches. The system they're running is a great fit for me.

“I'm able to stand up and put my hand down (on the ground) and rush, just different things that we do (that make it a great fit).”

McCray also is playing the Buck position, and he says it's given his UF career new life.

“It's helping my career,” he said. “It's easy to adjust to both (roles as a linebacker and defensive end). I like it. It gives me the opportunity to do the things a linebacker does, and rush and drop into coverage. I like playing it.”

Other defensive players also said they feel the new defense is a comfortable fit.

“I like it a lot,” senior defensive end William Green said. “I'm real excited with what we're doing. I'm just enjoying the scheme a lot better.

“It's a process, and we're getting it.”

Green and others say they also like the energy Quinn and the new staff have brought to the defense.

“He's a real good technician guy,” Green said of Quinn. “He's a high-energy guy and a real good person, too. I'm enjoying the coaches a lot.”

Bostic said Quinn is so involved that he'll sometimes jump in and participate in drills with the players.

“I love Coach Quinn,” McCray said. “He coaches the mess out of us. I just love that aspect of him. So far, he's been a great coach.”

Quinn is installing a pro-style defense that has created quite a buzz among the defensive players.

“It's good to learn the pro-style defense early on in your college career,” Jenkins said. “Coach Quinn knows what he's doing. The whole coaching staff knows what they're doing.

“Coach Quinn is intense, but we had intense coaches before. He knows what he's doing. He's passionate. That's kind of what we're used to from our coaches. The new defense is exciting.”

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