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Gators in for a defensive makeover?

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond completed 25-of-35 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns without turning the ball over against then third-ranked Florida to earn SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors Monday.

Florida coach Dan Mullen and the defensive coaches got together for a lengthy meeting Sunday to evaluate players, performance and everything else that's been going on with the struggling defense.

 So, there are going to be changes on that side of the ball for the LSU game Saturday.

 There might be changes in personnel. Maybe changes in scheme. Possibly changes in both.

 Mullen isn’t ready to reveal what they will be.

 “Tune in on Saturday to find out,” he said Monday.

 Changes and a lot of self-evaluation are in order coming off the defense’s most recent performance in the 41-38 loss at Texas A&M. The Gators gave up 338 yards passing, were gutted in the running game and could not make third-down stops.

 The defense followed a similar pattern in UF’s first two games.

 Mullen is an offensive guy and an offensive-minded head coach, but he said the defensive performances are on him.

 “It’s my responsibility. I’m the head coach,” he said. “I’m responsible for how we play and the performance of every phase of this team. Don’t expect me to be calling defensive plays out there. But I went down and met with the defensive staff yesterday. We went through personnel. We went through each guy.

 “We went through, are we asking guys to do things they can do well? Where are we being mismatched? Where is, right at this moment, their strength? Where is their weakness? And are we highlighting their strengths and protecting their weaknesses?”

 Mullen and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham could make personnel changes in terms of who plays where and when. And they also could tweak the defensive scheme to possibly make it a better fit for the talent the Gators have.

 If Mullen makes a midseason makeover, it won’t be his first at Florida. In 2005, he and head coach Urban Meyer revamped the offense coming off a loss to LSU. The offense became more productive and helped the Gators win four of their last five games to finish 9-3.

 Now, could it be done with the defense?

 “Yeah, absolutely,” Mullen said. "In 2005, we never really played much with a fullback. We had a couple fullbacks here. They were good players and we ended up tweaking the offense around doing some things with those guys on the field and helping out in areas that we were struggling. 

 “The same thing defensively. You’re looking and saying, ‘Are we asking guys to do things? One thing you look at defensively is are we sound or not? I know what we’re doing is sound. We’ve got a great coaching staff and I know our scheme is sound.”

 Now, it’s a matter of finding where each player best fits in the scheme, Mullen said. 

 “There are a lot of new faces out there for us,” he said. “Are we putting them in a position to make plays? This guy, he’s not going to be as good at doing this, so we need to put him in a position where he’s going to do really well. If we struggle doing something make sure we’re not putting those guys in that position.

 “What we’ve got to do is make sure we’re moving the guys into the right sports to be able to make plays.” 

 Mullen said the defense’s performance in Saturday’s loss wasn’t good, but it probably wasn’t as bad as everyone has been judging it. He said the effort was there, the coverage in the secondary was tighter than the results might indicate, and some of the credit goes to the A&M offense and quarterback Kellen Mond, who was right on target most of the day.

 “He threw guys open,” Mullen said. “We have guys in tight, tight coverage all over him and he threw him open and they were able to make plays, so that hurt on some explosives. I thought we needed to be a little bit more physical within the run game.

 “We’ve gotten better with our effort and our coverage in the secondary. Looking at that game and some of their explosive plays, heck they made plays. So, you can’t mistake great offense for bad defense.”

Up next

Who: LSU (1-2) vs. No. 9 Florida (2-1)

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850