Jalen Tabor crept in slowly from his spot at nickel back as Will Grier surveyed the defense. Tabor stayed low, trying to go unnoticed. Grier got the snap, took one step, planted and threw to a receiver but the pass didn’t make it 10 feet before the blitzing Tabor swatted the pass to the ground.
Tabor isn’t listed as a nickel back but Florida Gators new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins doesn’t really believe in depth charts on defense and he has enough talent on that side of the ball to get away with playing guys all over the place.
“We talk about here there’s no depth chart on defense around here. If you’re above the line, you’re going to play. If you’re not, you still have some work to do. Those guys take it to heart and we stress it every single day with them. They’re competing to get reps on that field and it fluctuates every single day. They do a great job earning their spots and playing time.”
Last year at Mississippi State, Collins’ defense finished with 37 sacks (second in the SEC) and had the SEC’s best red zone defense in the country. Part of that, of course, comes from having talented players on the field but Collins is a great defensive mind. He likes to bring pressure, estimating that Mississippi State brought pressure on about 30% of their plays last season. With the talent that Collins has at Florida, expect to see a lot of variations and exotic blitz packages, like bringing a guy like Tabor, who plays outside, down into the box to blitz.
“Whether we have blitz packages or whatever the case may be, affecting the quarterback is a big deal,” he said. “Whether we get to him or don’t get to him, but affecting him, affecting his timing, affecting the releases, hands in the face, whatever it may be to disrupt the passes, that’s huge for us.”
Geoff Collins raved about the players he inherited just a few weeks after he was hired. He had seen some tape, knew some of the names and he was exicted. That was before he even got the chance to actually coach them on the field. With spring and fall camp out of the way, Collins has been able to see first hand why the Florida Gators defense has been so good for so long.
“I didn’t know this when I was first hired, it might be the most competitive group of kids I’ve ever been around,” Collins said of his players. “If you put a ball down or say there’s a winner or loser or some kind of competitive situation, these guys just thrive and shine. That’s been a great thing to be a part of and be around.”