Changes coming on Florida's struggling defense

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
That Missouri offense is looking far more challenging for a Gators' defense that was struggling even before the team had to shut it down for two weeks because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Coming off the 41-38 loss to Texas A&M way back on Oct. 10, Florida coach Dan Mullen promised there would be changes made on defense, but they would not be revealed until that following Saturday’s game against LSU.

 Well, that Saturday came and went and so did the following Saturday — and nothing. No games. No revelation about changes on defense.

 Now, finally, and hopefully, THAT Saturday is almost here.

 We’ll have a chance to see the defensive changes Saturday night in The Swamp against Missouri.

 OK, here’s a spoiler alert: the changes probably aren’t going to be schematically or philosophically; they’re going to be in personnel and attitude.

 Changes in attitude, especially. At least that’s the plan.

 “We want to play to the standard that we have the last two years,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “No. 1, we have to improve our physicality. And I don’t just mean in the front, I’m talking about across the board in everything we do. That means tighter coverage — contested, physical at the point. Just really improve our physicality as a defense.

 “Then the next thing is as opportunities present themselves, we’ve got to make plays. We have to be able to make plays in our one-on-one match-ups. You’ve got to make sure you do your job.

 “And the last thing is to play with energy and effort. And just try to emphasize physicality and making plays when they’re there to make. As we do those things, plays will come.”

 Some of those plays might be coming from different players Saturday. All indications are there will be some personnel changes and maybe some different combinations of players we haven’t seen yet this season.

 UF has not released a depth chart this week, so those changes won’t be revealed until the Gators take the field Saturday night.

 But there is one change we do know about: senior defensive tackle Kyree Campbell has returned to active duty after missing the first three games for unspecified reasons. His presence inside could allow Zachary Carter to move from tackle back to the end spot where he played so well last season filling in for the injured Jabari Zuniga, and possibly help make the Gators’ run defense more stout.

 “Any time you are able to add someone that’s played a couple of years within the system and in the SEC, it helps,” Grantham said of Campbell. “Any time you can add a veteran guy it’s good.”

 With the Gators shut down the past two weeks, Grantham and Mullen have had plenty of extra time to analyze what’s been going on defensively and come up with potential solutions to some of the problems. And there have been many in the first three games, from blown assignments, to missed tackles, to failure to make plays when opportunities were there.

 The process has carried over to the practice field this week, where any changes are being implemented.

  “We’re going to keep looking at different things,” Mullen said. “(The layoff) gave you time to really kind of research it, spend some time on it and find ways to make sure our best 11 guys are out there on the field at all times, and make sure we’re putting guys in the best position to be successful to go play.

 “I just want to see consistency in play — consistent effort, consistent performance, our physicality. Making sure we’re doing all the little things the right way — effort to the ball, the technique, fundamentals, make sure we’re fitting our gap. And as a coaching staff, that we’ve put the guys in the right positions to make plays.”

What everyone should see Saturday night are changes in personnel, changes in attitude.

But there likely won’t be any changes in the scheme or in Grantham’s attacking approach to defense.

 “No different than when I was at Mississippi State when we were 10th in the country (in total defense) and last year when we were 10th,” Grantham said. “We really haven’t changed.

 “It's about getting lined up playing with physicality. And doing your job and consistently giving effort on each play and embracing the grind of what we're doing right now. And really that's about it as far as changing. We really haven't changed anything. We’ve just got to continue to work and let that success come about."


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

When: 7:30 p.m. 

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548 - 17,000 reduced)

TV: SEC Network Alternate

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


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