D.J. Durkin talks Florida Gators defense

The Florida Gators are winding down the summer of Kurt Roper.

For good reason, the Gators new offensive coordinator has been the talk of the town. Florida fans are starving for offense after three years of offensive production from the unit and Gator fans have reason to believe that Roper — who coached a Duke offense that ranked fourth in the ACC in total offense.

However, this is still Will Muschamp’s football team and that means the Gators will try and play the same style of physical defense that has kept the offense in games the past three seasons.

With fall camp winding down, defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media to discuss how the defense is replacing key starters from a year ago and where his confidence level currently stands with the defense.

Questions about experience in the secondary

Two players have earned starting roles in the secondary. Vernon Hargreaves will start at one corner spot and Keanu Neal has taken a starting role at safety. Behind them, there are still question marks but Durkin doesn’t put a lot of stock into who will be named “starter.”

That’s always a big thing for the players in who’s starting and all that but at the end of the day there won’t be much disparity in the number of stats with those guys. We’re planning on rolling them in.”

Freshmen Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson got a head start and ahead of the learning curve but another freshman cornerback has made up ground on the early enrollees and will be a big part of the defense this season. JC Jackson has been in a non-contact jersey for most of the fall following shoulder surgery but he’s expected to be ready to go a week from Saturday.

He’s got all the ability in the world. He’s going to be playing out there. You’ll see him on the field. Not being there in the spring, he was behind the learning curve a little bit. He caught up fine and we feel good about where he is responsibility-wise, especially as we hone in on through camp we install a lot of things. Now that we get into game week, we try to narrow it down. I think he’ll be fine.”

Duke Dawson continues to cross train at safety and cornerback.

Marcus Maye has missed time with an injury but continues to cross train at safety and nickel back.


Defensive line coming along

The biggest task for the defensive line is replacing Dominique Easley — something they were forced into and not ready to do last season.

Seniors Darious Cummings and Leon Orr have stepped into leadership roles and they will anchor the interior of the defensive line this season. Entering fall camp, Muschamp and Durkin were unsure about who would back them up, but a few players are emerging.

Joey Ivie, Jay-nard Bostwick, all those guys have come along. Caleb Brantley’s improving. All those guys have really answered the challenge, and we feel much better right now about being able to roll guys like we like to up front.”

Ideally Durkin would like to rotate defensive linemen throughout the game to keep them fresh in the fourth quarter. Durkin noted that Sharrif Floyd was able to play about 50-60 snaps a game but Floyd is the exception, not the rule.

We don’t want a drop-off in play. So wherever a guy can play. … the important thing is when the next guy comes there’s no drop-off. Whether that means one guy plays five, the next guy plays two, then we go back to him or four and four, whatever it is, no drop-off in play.”

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC