Football may be the ultimate team game.
Sure, the quarterbacks and skill position players get all the attention but if the offensive line doesn’t block and the quarterback doesn’t have time to throw the ball, your offense isn’t going anywhere. On defense, sacks, big hits and interceptions get all the attention, but what about that big, 320-pound tackle that’s eating up double teams and creating opportunities for the rest of the defense.
You need all 11 men n the field to execute their job to be successful.
It isn’t, however, what Geoff Collins saw on film when he went back to watch tape from the 2014 season.
“We kind of went back and watched some of last season, there would be a lot of great plays being made defensively,” he said. “But then you would see at times, celebrations being kind of individualized. Kind of running away from each other so the big focus for us this spring, is coming together and celebrating together.”
Sure, after a big play, guys can get lost in the moment, excitement coursing through their body after hours, weeks and months of hard work are realized on the field but what Collins is stressing is that one player doesn’t make the play. When someone makes a tackle or gets an interception, everyone on defense shares in the glory.
“Not necessarily just ‘look at me look at me but look at my buddy who just made a play, let’s go get excited about that,’” said Collins. “You start seeing that every single day and get a little bit better, whether it’s 10 or 11 off the sideline to celebrate with each other which obviously we don’t do on Saturday’s, but during practice it’s fun.”
The past few years the Gators have had their share of personalities on defense. Gator fans fondly recall Matt Elam making a sleeping motion to Odell Beckham Jr. after a crushing hit against LSU in the Swamp, or Dominique Easley and Dante Fowler’s dance moves all the way up to a snap. And, of course, it was the latter two that gave Florida their new tradition of a Chuckie doll.
Collins isn’t trying to stifle the personalities of his players or takeaway their swag, just redirect it from a “look at me” to a “look at us” mentality. After five practices the team is buying in.
Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian have stepped up into leadership roles at linebacker and those two are earning the respect of their teammates by showing it when someone makes a play.
“Whenever somebody else makes a play they get excited about it,” Collins said. “They’re making their own plays too, but whenever [Alex] McCalister makes a tackle for a loss, D-Mac [McMillian] is the first one over there celebrating with him. The leadership ability out of those two has been huge.”
Florida has a ton of talent on defense and the Gators promise to put out one of the top defenses in the country. They know the expectations and they’re ready to meet them head on — and even have a little fun along the way.
“Every single day you step into the defensive unit room, they’re excited to be there, excited to play, excited to learn what you’re going to teach them and they’re talented too,” Collins said.
“We’re just having a blast.”