For two straight weeks, the Florida Gators failed to pass the test of stopping a rugged running back in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn University is the site of their next exam.
Florida allowed 464 yards rushing to Alabama and LSU. Junior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said in order to stop these running backs, the line needs to do a better job of dealing with double teams in the trenches.
“We can hold double teams a little better. For me, watching film, I know I can hold a double team a little bit better,” Hunter said. “We are doing a better job at the contact, but just letting the guard or the center roll off to the second level—we can do a better job of that.”
The Gators rank fifth in the SEC in rushing defense allowing 115 yards per game and 3.42 yards per rushing attempt. As for the two top rushing defenses in the conference, Alabama and LSU combined surrendered six yards less per game.
Florida has interchanged two types of defensive schemes up front. The Gators use the one and two-gap techniques with their defensive lineman.
A one-gap responsibility requires the down lineman to face the player in front of him and plug the assigned gap, or the space in between the offensive linemen.
In a two-gap scheme, the defensive lineman is responsible for two gaps, reading the play and plugging the corresponding hole. Two-gap technique is seen more in a 3-4 defense, which the Gators have interchanged this season with a 4-3 front.
Hunter said the Gators performed better with one-gap responsibility. Head coach Will Muschamp agreed, but said the two-gap technique needed improvement. The front seven has made strides since spring ball, but not what the team wants right now, Muschamp said.
“We have played our one-gap techniques pretty well. We have not played our two-gap techniques very well,” Muschamp said. “As we go through our quality control after every game, and we look at what we’ve done well and what we haven’t done well, that is something that we haven’t played as well.”
The bruising running styles of Alabama’s Trent Richardson and LSU’s Spencer Ware have a hand in Florida’s ineffectiveness in two-gap responsibility.
Richardson, a likely Heisman Trophy candidate, wrecked havoc in Gainesville two Saturdays ago. LSU’s running attack led by Ware followed a script that is becoming all too familiar for Florida. Hunter said big-time running backs are a part of playing in the SEC.
“Every time you play in the SEC, every game is going to be a test,” Hunter said. “Our coach always says every week is going to be the best running back in the nation. That is just SEC football.”
Week seven does not get any easier for the Gators. Enter Auburn’s sophomore running back Michael Dyer. Through six games, Dyer gained 678 yards and eight touchdowns.
Hunter took notice.
“He is a very explosive running back,” Hunter said. “I was looking at him and Trent Richardson. They are different running backs, but they are both powerful guys and they both get on the line and they have great balance.”
The Gators visit Auburn Saturday. For Florida’s sake, let’s hope they studied for the exam.