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Position flexibility a big part of the Florida defense

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
Florida linebacker David Reese eyes making a move during practice. [UAA Communications photo by Courtney Culbreath]

 In attempting to define the strength of the Florida defense, there are numerous options to consider.

 It could be the overall speed and athleticism. Or perhaps Todd Grantham’s scheme and aggressive approach. Maybe the DBU factor or that rush end position that has pumped out so many big plays over the past two seasons.

 All are strengths, for sure.

 But, if you ask the coaches what the strength is, they’ll probably give you this answer: position flexibility. That means having multiple players capable of playing multiple positions that allows Grantham and the Gators to attack in all kinds of ways and from all kinds of different directions.

 “That’s a Todd Grantham defense,” linebackers coach Christian Robinson said Wednesday. “Every year I’ve been with coach Grantham it’s about creating depth, to be able to be one of those teams that plays deep into whenever we’re playing.

 “You’ve got to have depth and guys have to have multiple position flexibility. That’s the No. 1 thing that we look for when bringing people in our program, is do you have position flexibility.

 “It makes it very difficult (on opposing offenses). Just like offenses move their personnel around, we’re looking to move our guys around. That way no one gets a beat on what we’re doing. That’s any good defense, that’s any good scheme. Do you create multiple looks? Do you make quarterbacks have to play bad? That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Grantham’s defense appears to have considerable position flexibility heading into the season. The Gators have many players who have been working at more than one position in preseason camp — and will be playing two positions, maybe even more, in games this fall.

 Here are just to name a few:

•Ahmari Burney likely will see playing time at three positions — safety, nickel (or star) and linebacker.

•Trey Dean is working at both safety positions and nickel.

•True sophomore Mohamoud Diabate, who made some plays rushing from the edge last season, is now also getting reps at inside linebacker.

•Zachary Carter will play both end and tackle.

•Brad Stewart is getting reps at corner and safety.

•Rush ends Jeremiah Moon and Brenton Cox also are stand-up outside linebackers capable of dropping into coverage. Cox might also see playing time at linebacker or the other end spot — or maybe even another spot before all is said and done.

All the linebackers know and get reps at all the linebacker spots.

 So, yeah, the Gators have some position flexibility.

 Robinson points out Jon Greenard as an example of position flexibility — and how it can benefit players and team.

 Maybe Diabate will be the next example coming from that rush end position.

 “You look at Jonathan Greenard last year, a guy that played multiple positions for us. I think Mohamoud is taking that same approach," Robinson said.

 “He's a guy that obviously flashed last year on the edge and played for me in the middle at the beginning of the season at times. I expect him to kind of move around and kind of use me and Coach Grantham and be able to be diverse in the ways that he lines up. I think that's his strength, really, is just being able to move. You're really never going to know where he's at, that's kind of the blessing of having him in my room this year."

 That, in fact, is the premise of the defense, having multiple players giving the Gators multiple options from multiple positions.

 “With our personnel, moving pieces around, being multiple and giving different pictures. That’s what makes it hard for other people to really know what’s going on,” Robinson said.

 Position flexibility also had an impact on the Florida offense last season, Robinson said. 

 “When you talk about being a developmental program, can we get guys prepared to do more,” he said. “When you look at all those receivers that went to the NFL from Florida, they knew how to do all the drills we do at Florida and they were willing to move around. That’s how you create value.”

 The defensive players have bought in.

 "We got a lot of guys that are big and still fast," rush end Jeremiah Moon said. "A lot of guys that are just long and can make plays all over the field, can play multiple positions. And Coach Grantham always talks about being a defensive player, meaning you can play at any spot on the field. So I feel like a lot of guys have stepped up their game and have been able to do that."

Up next

Who: No. 6 Florida vs. Ole Miss

Where: Vaught Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Miss.

When: Noon, Sept. 26

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850