Gators defense embracing Grantham’s message: Stop Akers to stop FSU

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Florida defensive backs Shawn Davis (31) and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (23) put a hit on Florida State running back Cam Akers during last year's game at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

As a collective, Florida State’s offense doesn’t match-up favorably with Florida’s No. 12-ranked defense. 

Seminoles running back Cam Akers, however, has the full attention of the Gators. 

Ranked the No. 59 all-time prospect by 247Sports, Akers hasn’t let FSU’s futility hinder his production. 

In addition to having already eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark, Akers has 17 touchdowns, matching his combined touchdown total as an underclassman.

The junior was singled out by UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham at the top of the week as UF reconvened to prepare for the team’s final home contest, and Florida’s defensive personnel seemed to receive the message loud and clear as practice commenced.

“Cam Akers is an unbelievable back,” senior linebacker David Reese said. “That’s a guy we’re going to have to stop, stop the run with, make them beat us passing.”

While it hasn’t come against defenses of Florida’s caliber, the ‘Noles have had some success in the passing game with quarterbacks James Blackman and former transfer Alex Hornibrook. FSU’s passing offense ranks No. 30 in the nation at 277.5 yards per game, and pass-catching options such as Tamorrion Terry (892 receiving yards) and D.J. Matthews (33 receptions) could present challenges for UF’s secondary. 

Still, the message is clear: stop Akers to make FSU’s offense one-dimensional. 

“Cam, that’s a ballplayer. I have nothing bad to say about him or the running backs they got over there. They’ve got some really good players over there despite the season they’re having. The internal stuff, they can’t control that,” Gators defensive end Jon Greenard said. “But I just know they’ve got some good ballplayers over there and they’re going to come out with everything, all their punches, just like we will, too. Expect a dogfight.”

For much of the year, Florida’s rushing defense has mirrored that of the competition; when the Gators face a team with a threat in the backfield, the team often gets gashed. More than half of the 1,215 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns allowed by the Gators through 11 games this season came during Florida’s daunting mid-season stretch against Auburn, LSU, South Carolina and Georgia. 

In that stretch dating from Oct. 5 to Nov. 2, UF allowed more than 100 yards per game in each contest — although one could point to injuries to Greenard, Jabari Zuniga and Jeremiah Moon as to why the Gators struggled to contain the run during that span. 

Those games aside, the Gators have allowed an average of 76.7 rushing yards per game this season — a figure more in line with Florida’s defensive mindset. 

For Florida to secure its first victory at home over FSU in a decade, UF’s defense will have to stop the run — a tall task, yet one the Gators have been capable of when healthy this season. 

With Zuniga set to make his return, UF’s defensive line is anticipating a return to form Saturday night, which more than likely could spell bad news for Akers. 

“He’s a great back, I give credit when credit is due. We’ve just got to wrap him up and tackle him, take him to the ground,” junior defensive tackle Kyree Campbell said. “It’s FSU, we play them every year, so a win against them will complete the season for us.”

8 COMMENTS

  1. ” stretch dating from Oct. 5 to Nov. 2, UF allowed more than 100 yards per game in each contest — although one could point to injuries to Greenard, Jabari Zuniga and Jeremiah Moon as to why the Gators struggled to contain the run during that span.

    Those games aside, the Gators have allowed an average of 76.7 rushing yards per game this season ”

    Once again, facts that show that injuries to those select defenders are why we arent playing for a championship this year, not because we NEED anything. Yes it would have been nice to have had a better run blocking o-line but we didnt need them to score or win out, we needed to have Greenard, especially, in there or at 100%. One dynamic player or 2 can make all the difference for a team. Look at Ga who IS playing for a championship; they lost to SC and struggled against another because they didnt have their top receiver #15. They get him back and it made all the difference in the world for them against us and since, especially because we had our 2 top pass rushers at 80% and lost 1 in the game. 80% in a league of inches is no better than an average player. What we needed was them healthy or 2 just as talented backups, so talented depth was our need to be playing for a championship, not a lack of a running game. We have no problem scoring, just stopping the other guy in 2 critical games.

  2. It is high time that our offensive line gets the job done re: run blocking. If the OT pushes and the OG pulls – voila – a hole opens up just long enough for one of our talented RBs to punch through into the secondary. As for FSU, I don’t care how bad of a season they have had – they are playing the Gators and that’s all the motivation they need. So Florida needs to be wary and very prepared for a dog fight. GO GATORS – BEAT THEM NOLES SILLY!!!

  3. The bottom line is that the defense needs to tackle not hit the opposing player. Also, the defensive backs need to cover well. If The Gators do shut down the run or if FSU decides to throw UF off by passing more than usual, the defensive backs need to meet the challenge. Florida hasn’t had much of a pass rush in big games. Yes there have been injuries but it is not like half the team was injured.

    On offense, the linemen have had a year. Unless UF has given up on attempting to run block, the line needs to show that they have progressed.

    No I am not a coach and yes I am stating the obvious but I guess it is just my desire to see the Gators put a whooping on the Seminoles. Please shut their band up. I sit directly across from them on the west side and it is all I can do to ignore their simple, drunken sounding, non-football chant. Especially when some numb-brain in my section sells his tickets to two FSU fans that probably didn’t graduate high school. Go Gators!