Gators improving in key areas
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 11:16 p.m.
Florida finished 2011 ranked eighth nationally in total defense, but the unit never reached elite status due to its inability to pressure the quarterback, force turnovers and close out games.
But with the front seven rotating more this season, the Gators have already shown improvement in all three areas.
“We are playing more players as part of our rotation,” UF defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “That was really by design. As you guys know, to finish a game and have some rushers available in the fourth quarter, you need to be able to have a defensive line that's able to go in there and still have the ability to go do that.
“For us, it's been kind of part of the plan to build some depth and be able to have more of a rotation where we could go longer into the games and feel like at the end of the games, we could still have a chance to affect the quarterback. That was one thing we really wanted to address and it's been a big emphasis for us. We'll continue to do that.”
UF has held opponents scoreless in the fourth quarter through the first three games and boasts a plus-3 turnover margin. Quinn said the heavier rotation is responsible for those results.
“I think it's certainly a factor,” Quinn said. “Every time you can go out there and know that at the end of the game you need to have some people that are fresh and able to go rush the quarterback. I think it's an important thing that can be overlooked.
“But you really need those guys to go win the game at the end, and I think it's an important thing to have and something that we talk about a lot and why do we play a number of players. That's important to us. Up front we were ready to play nine guys and at linebacker having two-deep to do that.”
Redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said he's playing much more effectively in crunch time because his snaps have decreased.
“Coach did a good job of getting a lot of guys ready to play this year and those guys have really stepped up,” Hunter said. “It's really working for us right now. We're fresh going into the second half, and I think I played like 30 snaps. That's pretty low. This time last year I was playing like 50 snaps, so it's very different.”
With the return to The Swamp this Saturday, senior safety Josh Evans said Tuesday that the defense's top priority is communicating the plays calls better.
Quinn reiterated that in his Wednesday press conference.
“For us, the communication is certainly going to be one that we're going to keep harping on,” Quinn said. “That was one of the things we're talking about and how can we improve? For our defense, it's our communication on the field. If there's a technique error, we talk about it. If there was a mental error or a communication error, let's get on the board and make sure we communicate that and go through it.”
Sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy said the coaches have cranked up the crowd noise in practice this week to prepare the defense for the screaming Gator fans that will be loud and proud when Kentucky's offense takes the field.
“We have no choice but to communicate,” Purifoy said. “We're locked in to our person we're supposed to be guarding, so we're not really paying attention to each other (in previous games). So just mental focus and getting the calls in faster (are key).”
Purifoy said he's still working out at receiver and it's been like riding a bike for him. “Coming from high school, that's what I played — offense. I barely played defense. If I can get a chance to get the ball in my hands, I'll help the team any way possible.” … Quinn said if junior defensive end Dominique Easley (knee) can't play against the Wildcats, redshirt senior Earl Okine or true freshman Jonathan Bullard will start in his place.