Notebook: UF has luxury of depth
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 11:01 p.m.
With the recent injuries to juniors Jelani Jenkins, Ronald Powell and Cody Riggs, Florida’s defensive unit will have two of its best players out for the next month and Powell gone for the entire season.
Last year, losses like that would have put the defense in a bind because of the lack of depth on the roster at the time. In 2012, however, UF is in a much better shape to battle the injury bug thanks to the addition of four true freshmen — defensive ends Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler, linebacker Antonio Morrison and cornerback Brian Poole.
“A number of them have played early on in the first few ball games,” Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “At the defensive end spot, we’ve gotten a lot of snaps out of Bullard and Fowler. For both those guys, I’ve been really pleased with what they’ve done.
“For a guy like Antonio Morrison, he went through the whole spring. I’ve always been impressed by him and how physical he is as a linebacker. I would certainly say Poole is another one that’s had some good practice weeks and he would be (the next freshman) that we anticipate at some point coming in. Moving forward, we have a lot of confidence in all those guys.”
Redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said the “young bucks” have looked good thus far and are a huge asset to the defense.
“It’s big,” Hunter said. “Guys don’t have to play so many snaps on defense and special teams. Now we have younger guys that can step up and play those roles.”
Man down, man up
In his Monday press conference, Florida coach Will Muschamp said he’s given his players a motto to follow when their teammates suffer injuries.
"We've kind of got a saying around here, 'Man down, Man up,’ ” Muschamp said.
The aforementioned freshmen aren’t the only ones who will need to man up this month. Muschamp mentioned linebacker Michael Taylor as another player who will need to fill the void left by Jenkins.
The redshirt sophomore said he’s prepared to step in for an injured starter — and the rest of the backups should be as well.
“I’m definitely ready. If I could jump from Saturday to Saturday every week I would,” Taylor said. “Every player on our team should be ready. Any day, any game, anybody can go down, from the quarterback to long snapper. Our long snapper got hurt, and we got our backup in. So everybody on our team has to be ready to go.”
Turnovers key against UT
Despite the emphasis on turnovers in the offseason, Florida’s defense has forced just one through the first two games of the season.
The coaches have continued to stress the importance of takeaways as the team gets ready to travel to Tennessee.
“All the coaches have been talking about is the defense creating turnovers,” Hunter said. “We’ve only had one so far. We definitely need to get our hands on more balls for interceptions and sacks to cause fumbles. We definitely need to create more.”
In the sluggish showing in the first half last Saturday, UF’s defense shutout Texas A&M after the break by cutting its offensive snaps in half, forcing four three-and-outs and giving up just 65 total yards en route to a 20-17 victory.
But the Gators aren’t resting on their latest laurels.
“There’s always something as a defense we’re trying to get better at,” Taylor said, “and turnovers is definitely one thing. We’re going to be looking to get the ball out more (against the Vols).”