Now that Florida has successfully tweaked its offense with the no-huddle, hurry-up attack, the Gators need to turn their attention to a defense that seems to be growing more susceptible with each game.
“Obviously, if there are issues, we try to get them cleaned up immediately,” UF coach Urban Meyer said. “We have very good coaches. We just have to clean up a few things because at times, we play outstanding defense. But it’s getting off the field that has been kind of a situation for us.”
The biggest problem appears to be one that’s difficult to fix. The Gators are getting almost zero pass rush from their defensive front four. In eight games, the defensive line has been credited with only eight of UF’s 15 sacks. That’s not good.
To get any pressure at all, new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has had to throw a variety of blitzes at opposing offenses, including some from the defensive backs. The problem with that is whenever the Gators send linebackers and defensive backs at the quarterback, the back seven is put in a tough position to cover receivers. Too many times this season, the Gators have been burned when they’ve blitzed.
The blitzes almost seem predictable at times (at least that’s the way it looked when UF was picked apart in recent games). Quarterbacks see the pressure coming and have a way of finding open receivers. Georgia tight end Orson Charles was so open at times last Saturday that there was no defender within several yards of him. Those were some easy throws for redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray in a high-pressure rivalry game.
Heading into the season, the biggest concern on defense was whether the Florida line (especially those undersized ends) could produce a steady pass rush. We pretty much know the answer now: it can’t.
Austin and his staff will have their hands full trying to find a way to tighten things up on defense.
There’s not a whole lot of time, because you-know-who (the guy with the visor) is heading to The Swamp in a little more than a week in a game that could be for the Eastern Division title.
If LSU, Mississippi State and Georgia were able to find the holes in the Florida defense, you know Steve Spurrier will find them (and maybe even some new ones) as well.