Daily Football Fix: UF’s plan for its defensive front

UF defensive line coach Sal Sunseri talks to the media Tuesday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

Through the first four games last season, the Florida Gators were in decent shape, and actually in a position to challenge in the SEC East race.

They’d recovered from the opening loss to Michigan and won three games in a row, including a dramatic home win against Tennessee and a come-from-behind victory at Kentucky.

With back-to-back home games coming up against LSU and Texas A&M, the Gators (and their fans) were feeling pretty good about themselves.

But those next two games tipped the season in the wrong direction and ultimately led to the big mess: Jim McElwain’s departure and a 4-7 record.

The Gators were in a position to win both those games but ran out of energy in the fourth quarter.

Down by just a point heading into the fourth quarter against LSU, UF was shut out the rest of the way and left to stomach a tough 17-16 loss.

A week later, the Gators took a 17-10 lead early in the fourth quarter against Texas A&M, but could not hold it. The Aggies dominated the rest of the game, outscoring the Gators 9-0 to pull out a 19-17 win.

Many look back on those fourth-quarter failures and blame it on UF’s lack of strength and conditioning, which has since been well chronicled.

That certainly had to be a big factor. Also contributing was the fact the Gators had too many players — especially on defense — playing too many plays. UF big guys up front, in particular, seemed to be gassed coming down the stretch.

New Florida defensive line coach Sal Sunseri said that’s not going to happen to his guys this season. The defensive linemen are going to be fresh throughout games, he has vowed.

“I want it to be four deep (on the defensive line,” Sunseri said. “ If we can get into four-deep and get some guys really going, the rotation will be pretty good. You don’t have to play guys for more than eight or nine plays on a long drive if you have that kind of depth.

“You keep them fresh. So if that guy runs a 4.7 normal, well if he’s doing 60 plays he’s not going to run 4.7. So, we’re trying to make sure that everybody that’s on the defensive line is going to have a role. We’re going to be in there. Hopefully people are playing 30-35 plays, whether there’s three groups doing it or two groups.”

Sunseri seemed pleased with the potential depth up front, and the overall performance of the defensive line this spring.

“They’ve worked extremely hard,” he said. “What they’re doing is trying to get better on their techniques and understand the system that we’re trying to put in. They’ve giving very, very good effort. They’re learning more about football and what it takes to be a champion and they’re executing what they need to do.”

Sunseri said with a new defensive system (and philosophy) there has been a pretty significant learning curve.

“Of course, there’s always a learning curve when you’re coming in here with Coach (Todd) Grantham’s system,” Sunseri said. “He’s had success everywhere he’s been. Now what they’re doing is they’re learning different spots and different calls and different alignments.

“They’re definitely learning different techniques from what they did in the past. We’re in the process of getting better with our hands and our feet and being quicker, faster, stronger and more gap integrity.”

In 2018, the plan for the defensive line is to play faster — and fresher.



  1. The problem on the defensive line is the lack of talent. Clark has always been mediocre. The other projected starter at tackle, Ancrum, is a great example of McElwain’s poor recruiting. Slaton doesn’t have the stamina to play defense. He should be on the other side of the ball where you don’t expend nearly as much energy. It’s another example of why UF is a dumpster fire. UF’s offensive line sucks and someone that might help isn’t even in a position to make you better. Instead he’s just a mediocre defensive lineman.

    • We had one somewhat “mediocre” year of D Line talent…last year….but had a 1st rounder..AGAIN for the D Line. Slaton is in year 2 and coveted by everyone, yet you already know his skill set. Terrible analysis.

  2. Ho hum. Every new staff says the same thing. The guys used to get tired, but under us, they won’t. How delusional. If the defense stays on the field for 2/3 of the game like they have for years, they will wear down and get tired. Period.

    • The solution, of course, is depth and rotation (as mentioned in the article), but I’m afraid it’s going to take a while to get that. However, the S&C program should help in that regard. The best solution? Exactly as you implied, LT—–an offense that eats the clock and puts points on the scoreboard.

  3. What the He!! is wrong with you people; Mullen has been here with Meyer and knows what it takes. There is noticeable talent on BOTH sides of the line. Condtioning, talent, scheme, and coaching makes all the difference. If you are this negative NOW, consider taking a hike – permanently. I’m sick to death of entitled MFs who prejudge the staff and exhibit a constant toothache. I criticized Nussmeier – but based on facts and performance- not based on my bile and hemorrhoids. Suck it up- or just suck it.

    • McElwain was with Saban, so, according to your twisted logic, he also “knows what it takes.” There isn’t “noticeable talent “ on both sides of the ball, at least not much, or they wouldn’t have struggled to win four games last season with coming a hair away from only winning two.
      I thought Spurrier was very perceptive when he said it was wrong to blame the QB position for UF’s awful offense. The only thing “noticeable” is the dearth of any All-SEC players at UF. The “noticeable talent “ is so great that a guy who couldn’t start at Mississippi State, Jefferson was benched after the third game last season, is, by all reports, instantly the best WR at Florida.

        • Does tebow curse work for a newspaper or hope to? Clearly someone looking for a response..

          Maybe I’m just too wary of people. Anyway I thought we had decent assistants on defense last year but not on offense except running back.
          That is what hurt us IMO. I like all the assistants except the linebacker coach is too close to following the failed model of using entry level wr and ol coaches last year. I do concede Mullen had the money and knows Florida is for proven commodities not as a training ground…so hopefully I’m wrong.

          • More than anything, it was our D Coordinator’s reactive vs aggressive mindset, “I think I have Russell Maryland and it’s the 90s”, approach last year.

          • TTC is spurned Gator wannabe and prolific FSU troll, Mike Winter, aka Black Juju, aka Mike Jones, aka Gator G, aka TheTebowCurse, etc. etc., ad nauseum. He posts all kinds of BS.

            Ignore him…

        • Albert, TTC is Mike Winter, is Black JuJu, is Mike Jones, etc, etc, etc.

          You’ve got one name wrong and it’s effecting your credibility. When you post about football, you’re actually quite accurate most of the time. When it comes to fratricide I’d give you an F, and that ain’t for Florida son.

  4. “TheTebowCurse, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent post were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone on this Gator Sports forum is now dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

  5. I am truly sick of all the negative stuff people spout in order to feel smarter than others. If you are that smart and superior go coach yourself… but pick a different team to root for. UF is not entitled to be great… it has to be earned by each years team. I like our chances with this group of coaches.

  6. Greg seem to make some very good points, I wouldn’t quite go with the language but he’s right for the most part. I also think that if either of the defenses of the last two years had help from the offense or were in better condition (and strength) they could have been a lot better team. I really believe there is good talent on this team, as were on the teams for the last two years. You could watch the game and see where they lost their energy and therefore the game.

  7. Not sure why you guys continue to engage or even read anything from TheTebowCurse or TampaGator or whatever he calls himself. Don’t feed the trolls. I just skip over their drunken ramblings and never bother reading their ignorant posts thatvare onky designed to get a rise out of readers. Skip over them and move on, you will enjoy this site much more.

  8. Florida will be fine. They were gassed in the fourth quarter because the offense got off the field too soon and player development was poor. Both along with conditioning will be a lot different this year. No need to jump out of a one story building. Good coaches analyze the situation, determine the problem,and put a plan in p;ace to fix it. We haven’t had that since Mullen was here with Meyer. Now we do. We also have assistant coaches with fire. Something that was lacking again, since Mullen left after 2008.

    Also, stop reading the negativity. Nobody on here is a coach or has “THE” solution. Just thoughts. Ease up and relax.

    • Three and out was killing us more than anything else, all the way through this recent stretch, to include when Champ was putting good defenses on the field. No doubt about it. But you’re exactly right, Ocala;
      Look at who our DC is and look at who our HC is, and everyone in between. You can’t convince me that this isn’t the right staff–finally–and with a couple of good recruiting classes we should be back. All the way back.