The best way to describe Florida Gators linebacker Mike Taylor? Accountable.
Coming off Saturday’s loss to LSU, there have been plenty of comments about the defense. In light of the criticism, Taylor put the onus on the defense to help the offense out.
“We have plenty of weapons on that side of the ball to put up points. We didn’t do a good enough job on defense holding our end, giving up 30 points when the offense puts up 27. That’s not something we can accept.”
In the midst of all the talk, Taylor and the defense remain focused on getting better and building upon the positives the defense has made so far this season.
The Gators are preparing for this Saturday’s homecoming contest against Missouri. The Tigers are 12th in the conference in total offense, averaging 357.8 yards a game. Missouri is also coming off of four interceptions and one fumble in last week’s 34-0 loss to Georgia.
The offensively-challenged Tigers may be the team for Florida to show their improvements on, especially in the secondary. Seemingly a problem all of the season, the pass defense has gotten better as a unit over the last few weeks, but still has given up big plays. LSU’s 41-yard reception on third-and-25 has been the talk of the fan base all week and is something linebacker Mike Taylor knows the team has to work on.
“The thing is, our issues are always something fixable,” Taylor said. “It’s not effort. If you’re not playing hard, you’re not going to be like situations like that anyway. Execution is something we can fix. Doing the right thing at the right time. It’s something we’ve got to work on and will help us win those games we’ve lost in the past.”
While the Gators are working to limit the big plays through the air, the team is looking to continue to improve upon their pass rush, which has had success in past weeks. In the past two games — against Tennessee and LSU — Florida had 10 sacks and eight quarterback hurries. The Florida defensive line matches up well against a Missouri offense that has allowed five sacks and nine hurries in their last two games.
“When you can get pressure on the quarterback, get back there and have the quarterback move his feet and not being comfortable in the pocket, it’s always a good thing,” Taylor said. “When you can get pressure back there, we’ve just got to keep getting more and execute more.”
A player who has had an effect on the Gators successful pass rush is Alex McCalister. The redshirt sophomore defensive lineman has emerged recently on the line, recording two sacks over the past two games. McCalister has also recorded six total tackles including three for a loss. Taylor has been pleased with the defensive end’s development.
“He’s playing good,” Taylor said. “He’s long, extremely long, like 7-foot long. He can rush the passer. He can play the run. He’s playing good coming off the edge and getting to the quarterback. It’s just another good thing having him and Dante [Fowler Jr.] on both edges of the ball.”
The criticisms of the defense have been consistent throughout the season, but the Gators are focused on rectifying those mistakes. No matter what has happened in the season so far, Taylor and the team have their focus set on the games ahead.
“Learning from our mistakes, moving forward and trying to get the games that we need to win,” Taylor said. “So that’s the main thing. We can win four games and still win our part of the conference on the East. That’s a goal that’s very obtainable and something that we want to do.”