Durkin dishes on defense, discipline


University of Florida Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach D.J. Durkin was the keynote speaker at the Marion County Gator Club Gator Gathering at the Ewers Center in Ocala on Thursday. Durkin spoke about the upcoming season and the key players that will play big roles next season.

Doug Engle/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 at 12:05 a.m.

OCALA — New Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin refused to say whether Antonio Morrison's suspension will be reduced, but stood behind the character of the projected starting sophomore middle linebacker.

Morrison was suspended for two games after he was arrested last Sunday on charges of interfering with a police animal. It was Morrison's second arrest in the span of five weeks, but the charges were dismissed by the State Attorney's Office three days later due to insufficient evidence.

“When a guy steps out of line or does something they're not supposed to do, there's going to be consequences for it,” Durkin said. “We're not going to turn our heads and say ‘He's not a good player let's do this to him, or he's a great player, let's do this to him.' There are going to be consequences and he's one of those that's going to be dealt with on an individual basis. There's more information that's come out and that's for Coach (Will) Muschamp to decide.

“We love Antonio and we sure can't wait to have him out there whenever that is. We hope the other guys behind him around him will step up if he's not out there and will do the job.”

Later, Durkin added: “There's a lot of things being said and it cuts me deep because Antonio is a guy I recruited, I've coached since he got here. He has a great family. His mom and dad are unbelievable people and have got to sit and watch that stuff, too, and they're torn apart by it. But it's all a learning process.”

Durkin said he expects Michael Taylor and Darrin Kitchens to fill in most of the snaps at middle linebacker while Morrison is suspended.

“Mike Taylor started this year and played the whole game against LSU,” Durkin said. “He has started several games in his career and has done really well for us. We've played good defense with him in there. He's physical. He'll put his nose in you.'

The silver-haired Durkin spoke and fielded questions before 150 people Thursday night at a Marion County Club Gator Gathering at the College of Central Florida. In 38 minutes, the promoted former special teams and linebacker coach offered interesting tidbits on Ronald Powell, Andre Debose and new defensive line coach Brad Lawing.

On Powell, Durkin said: “He is full speed, 100 percent. He's starting up camp ready to go, ready to play. There's not a guy who has worked harder in rehab than Ronald to get back healthy. You want nothing but success for the kid because he's paid the price … he's going to play some at (defensive) end, some at linebacker for us to put the best combination of 11 players on the field.”

On Debose, whom Durkin has coached the previous three years on special teams: “The guy has put together his best six months in terms of work and accountability since he's been here … usually when a guy prepares that way, it equals a good season.”

On Lawing, who left South Carolina to coach the defensive line at UF this season: “We were feeling him out and asked him why he would want to leave South Carolina for a division rival. He simply told us ‘I want to win a championship.' That tells you how our program is looked at from others in the conference because (South Carolina) has had their share of success.”

Durkin said he feels like that he and defensive-minded Muschamp “think a lot alike” and will be on the same page this season. Despite losing six starters on defense, including first-round draft picks Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam, Durkin is confident that other players will be able to step up and fill important roles. He admitted the biggest question mark going into the season was replacing Elam and Josh Evans at safety, but feels projected starting corners Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy “are as good as anyone in the country.”

“Will it be Cody Riggs or Jaylen Watkins at safety, or will it be someone else,” Durkin said. “That's what we have to decide in camp.”

Durkin also mentioned Dante Fowler and Jonathan Bullard as players capable of taking on more prominent roles on the defensive line.

“We played a lot of guys on defense last year,” Durkin said. “The challenge is getting some of those guys who played 20 to 25 snaps last year prepared to play 70 to 75 snaps.”

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top