UF defense: Too much whiffing


After having dozens of missed tackles in the previous two games against Tennessee, the Florida Gators placed an emphasis on tackling heading into last Saturday’s game.

The emphasis did not translate to results. The defense missed almost too many tackles to count, especially in the fourth quarter, when UT tailback John Kelly consistently ran over and through weary UF defenders.

“Late in the game we didn’t tackle worth a hill of beans,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “What bothered me was the secondary tackling, especially from some of our, quote, some of our good guys, veterans. That’s been pointed out and will continue to be pointed out.

“(It was) just guys not doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Outside linebacker Vosean Joseph said the defense lost some focus and players got out of their gaps. He also gives a lot of credit to Kelly, whose running style is relentless.

“John Kelly, you see how he like cuts, step and then he’d go right up field on you,” Joseph said. “So, the biggest thing for us is staying in our gaps really.”

McElwain was asked how the Gators can improve their tackling in practice when there is so little contact work during the week.

“The tackling was good the first three quarters of that game,” he said. “I give that running back (credit). That guy can stiff-arm now. He’s pretty good. But those are every-day drills and you’re able to do them. Just something we have to continue to do.”


  1. Gardner was a “miss” machine during the game. Not good if you are playing one of the safety positions. He completely “wiffed” on Kelly’s long TD run in the fourth quarter that got Tennessee quickly back in the game. He could have stopped him near the line of scrimmage, but he reached for air with his head down and eyes closed as if he was afraid to tackle him. Bothersome to see that from him. He has to do better than that in the future. And I am not going to go on about his other action that resulted in a penalty after a great Florida defensive play defending the goal line. That was really bad judgment by him at a key time.

    • Gardner is a victim of his own successes last year. He is more consumed with the big play rather than the simple tackle. I too have been surprised at his performance so far. I expected more from him. Hopefully, someone will get in his head and let him know he isn’t helping the team or himself playing the way he is. The big plays will come but he has to take care of the little things.

  2. Game performance reflects the preparation learned in practice. Ever wonder why we don’t see that from Alabama’s defense? They will put the ball carrier on the ground with solid wrap-up technique every game. Our coaches need to figure out what we are NOT doing in practice that results in this type of failure on game day, then teach it to every defensive player, and practice, practice, practice proper tackling technique. If they all “get it” for proper technique, including the backups, we can put a dent in the “gassed in 4th quarter” problem as well. This team cannot afford to just do nothing about this problem.

        • Tunaboat. I was posting that Bama players make mistakes, too, on defense. And they do and did vs. CSU. And CSU was only down by seven at halftime and Bama had their main guys on the field most of the CSU game. If you do not believe me, watch the replay like I did. And Florida’s first team defense is right there with Bama. Not the same quality and quantity in depth. That is the difference.

  3. I am usually a positive guy, but in this regard I have to say that the infamous “DBU” is currently manned by tackling cowards. When faced with the likelihood of real contact, they all duck and dive for ankles which they rarely even seem to be able to see (eyes closed?). When they are not able to avoid contact, they reach for an arm or try to grab a jersey and wave good-bye to the ball carrier. Similarly, if they can get the deceptive “big hit” by knocking someone out of bounds, they go for the ESPN highlight and then jump-up thumping their chest as if they actually hit somebody. I guess this works OK in high school when you are one of the best athletes on the field, but it does NOT work for Big Boy Football! Don’t tell me that they practice proper technique in “drills” when there is little to no contact in practice. Players play like they practice. Period. Either find players with the guts to wrap-up and tackle, or resign yourself to a season of missed tackles by a bunch of over-rated prima donnas who are simply afraid to tackle properly.

  4. Trooper. Wilson is a tackling and coverage machine, and he is a freshman. And Henderson is a superstar in the making, and another freshman. The biggest DB offenders in the game were Gardner, Dawson, and Reese (a LB). And not sure what was going on with Dawson, as he has been one of the best tacklers in the secondary in the past. I am sure they will get that corrected for this weekend’s game. But none of the DBs on Florida’s roster come across as “prima donnas” other than Gardner at times. But he has backed up his attitude in the past. You look bad when you do not, and he did not vs. Tennessee. And, when you start as a freshman (Wilson and Henderson), you are hardly overrated. And Dawson will be coveted by many NFL teams as a highly-rated nickel back, as with Brian Poole with the Falcons.

  5. Rick Gilmore: Not sure we were watching the same game. These DB’s get absolutely torched by any team with a decent passing attack. Go back and check our record against good teams and see how many blown coverages and missed tackles by the secondary cost us. DBU? Hardly. And any time a player does something (usually stupid) to draw attention to themselves, rather than realizing that maybe the 10 other guys had something to do with them making a play, they fit the “prima donna” profile.

    • Trooper. Neal, Maye, Poole, Maye, Hargraves, and Wilson all starters in the NFL. DBU. And Tabor will be with Detroit as well. DBU. And Dawson will be a starter as a nickel in the NFL next year. DBU. And Marco Wilson, C.J. Henderson, and Gardner will be starting in the NFL in a few years. DBU. And more on the way and already on the team. I guess you can call them “prima donnas” because they all are NFL quality defensive backs. Florida IS DBU. Period.

  6. Oh, and by the way. They were supposed to get it “corrected” for the Tennessee game, after being reminded that they had missed a total of 78 tackles in the previous 2 games with the Vols. Granted, this applied to the entire defense, but if this is “correction” I hope they don’t get it “corrected for this week’s game”.

  7. The errors in UF’s tackling is simple… They are all leaving their feet. To be a good tackler, one that has correct form you must not leave you feet. Instead you should stick your face into the players numbers open your arms really big and wrap them around the runner, then explod your hips through the tackle and finish the deal. If you duck your head AKA you can’t see what your tackling. If you leave your feet you can not change direction. Stay on the ground, face in the target, wrap up and keep your feet moving… The best tacklers do this….Enough said