Gators to deal with triple threat


Florida defensive players: Michael Taylor (51), Damien Jacobs (4) and Ronald Powell will have their hands full against Georgia Southern.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 2:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 2:13 p.m.

For the first time this season, the Florida Gators are facing an opponent that they are clearly bigger, stronger and faster than across the board. This, of course, brings into play the possibility of a letdown against FCS opponent Georgia Southern on Saturday.

But there are two main reasons why that probably won't happen: Furman, and the triple option.

Two years ago, Furman, another FCS power, came to The Swamp and sprung the triple option on the Gators and nearly pinned an embarrassing upset loss on Florida.

After trailing 22-7 at the end of the first quarter, the Gators finally found a way to slow down the triple option and escaped with a 54-32 victory that made them bowl eligible.

FCS schools can cause all kinds of trouble, especially those that are efficient running the triple option.

Florida remembers that lesson.

“Just like a couple of years ago when we played Furman, we expected them to do something completely different and they came out and ran the triple option against us,” junior middle linebacker Michael Taylor said. “You never know what you're going to get. I know this is this team's last game of the season before they go to Division I. We're ready for anything. We're ready to expect anything this week, pretty much.”

The Gators actually know exactly what to expect from the Georgia Southern offense Saturday. The Eagles are going to run variations of the triple option and occasionally try to burn UF with a deep pass when the defensive focus is on stopping the run.

It's a simple, old-fashioned approach, and an effective one.

Knowing it's coming is only part of the problem for the Florida defense. The difficult part is stopping it, especially when you go up against it only every two or three years (or less) and have only one week to prepare.

“I just think it's something different than what our guys see from week to week,” UF defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said Wednesday. “Usually you go from one opponent to the next, you have a different game plan, but you build off certain concepts and there's carryover. This week there's not as much carryover it's kind of a whole different game plan in how you play it.

“Within that week's approach it's getting that game plan implemented, and getting the guys knowing where they need to be having their eyes in the right place.

“To be honest with you, this is something we've worked on as a staff all the way back into the summer. Obviously, we knew this game was coming so we've prepared and worked for it, but now it's teaching that and getting that to our players."

UF coach Will Muschamp is a longtime defensive coach, but he's rarely gone against an option attack like Georgia Southern's. He said the key to slowing it down is playing assignment football. That starts with each player knowing his assignment and carrying it out.

“The difficulty facing a team like this is simulating it in practice,” Muschamp said. “You just don't ever see it. Not many teams run it. … The service academies and Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern. It's not something you see every day.

“Recognition is key. Simplicity in what we do. Execution is going to be (critical).”

The Eagles are averaging 353.5 yards a game rushing and 453.7 overall. They don't pass often, but when they do they are effective, averaging almost 19 yards per completion.

Missed defensive assignments tend to lead to big plays for the Georgia Southern offense.

“I know this team put up 352 yards on (Georgia) last year, so this is no team to push aside,” Taylor said. “This is a team to be prepared for.

“They run veer, they run a lot of different ways. There are a lot of different ways they block it up. We just have to play assignment sound. If you don't have your assignment, they can crease you, they can score on any play. You've just got to take care of your assignment, trust the guys that are out there with you and we'll be fine. Just play assignment football.”

That may be easier said than done for a defense that has not been all that disciplined throughout this 4-6 season. The Gators have missed plenty of assignments, many of them in crucial situations.

“Yes, it has (been a problem),” Taylor said. “We are nailing into everyone's head this week. Mine, all the rest of the d-line, safeties, corners. Everybody is getting it nailed into their head — play your guy and we'll be fine.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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