Notebook: Taylor's role growing on defense


Florida linebacker Michael Taylor breaks up a pass during the second half against Bowling Green at Florida Field in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, September 1, 2012.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 6:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 6:26 p.m.

Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn singled out linebacker Michael Taylor on Wednesday as the most improved defensive player in practice.

“Mike Taylor would be a guy that in my mind, he's practicing better,” Quinn said. “He's better in the communications, better in the calls.”

He's also better at making plays. In two of Florida's first three SEC games this season, Taylor has come through for the Gators late in the first half and prevented opposing offenses from having a chance to score.

Against Texas A&M, Taylor sacked quarterback Johnny Manziel with 20 seconds left in the second quarter to put the Aggies out of field goal range. In the Kentucky game, the redshirt sophomore picked off quarterback Morgan Newton in the final minute of the half and returned it 10 yards to the UK 29-yard line. Taylor has intercepted the Wildcats two years in a row.

Quinn said practice improvement as well as the thumb injury to Jelani Jenkins has increased Taylor's role and made the team count on him more. His 14 tackles rank third among Florida's linebackers.

“Mike's always been a guy (that) when he gets in, he does a good job,” Quinn said. “With Jelani being injured, his reps have increased. Seeing those two big plays both at the end of the half gave us momentum.

“He knows we're counting on him, and his teammates know that too. So I think when you have that going for you, it does have a factor in the way you prepare and practice and play. When you know people are counting on you, your attention to detail is a little stronger. And I think that's an example of that with Mike.”

Four-man rush

Junior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs had a hand in Taylor's interception last Saturday.

Quinn said Jacobs pushed the pocket with his quickness and caused Newton to get rid of the ball in a hurry.

“He had a pressure up the middle that forced a little bit of a bad throw,” Quinn said.

The Gators rushed four defensive linemen on that play, and Quinn wants to continue to bring that many at the quarterback. He has primarily rushed three linemen in the past out of the 3-4 scheme.

“I do feel like our four-man rush is making some progress,” Quinn said. “Are we getting as many sacks as we would like? No. Are we getting to affect the quarterback some? Yes. So in that way, I'm pleased with the four-man rush. It's an emphasis for us moving forward this week.”

Two-back sets

UF is improving its four-man rush at an opportune time.

Through the first four games, the Gators haven't faced many two-back sets and they've subsequently ran mostly nickel and dime defenses.

What percentage of LSU's offense will feature two backs?

“About 120 percent,” Quinn said. “There's a more traditional approach in the way they run the ball at LSU. It has been unusual in the first couple ball games of SEC play of not seeing as much two-back, downhill run (attack) that this conference is certainly known for. Different style of offense with A&M and certainly with Tennessee and Kentucky. LSU is the opposite of that.”

That means you'll see more 4-3 defense from Florida on Oct. 6.

“It gives us an opportunity to go back and play some more of our three linebacker, four down fronts than the practices that we've had over the last few weeks, where it's been a high percentage of practice snaps in our nickel and dime packages.”

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