Just how good was Florida’s defense with Dominique Easley in the lineup? Good enough that the Gators still have the top-ranked defense in the SEC even after surrendering 500 yards of offense against Missouri.
Easley isn’t coming back and the Gators are still trying to figure out a way to fill the void that the disruptive defensive tackle left squarely in the middle of the defense. An off week helped the team get healthy and the Gator defense is looking to get back on track this week against Georgia and keep alive their hope of making it to Atlanta.
Key to third down is first down
- Florida leads the SEC in third down defense (27.38%) but Durkin said the key to being a good third down starts on first down.
Part of it is winning on first down. We talk a lot about winning on third down, which is obviously is critical, that’s how you get off the field. To better your chances on third down, you’ve got to win on first down. So, stopping the run becomes a big thing for us.”
Guys getting healthy
- Ronald Powell missed the Missouri game with a knee injury and the defense missed him and his pass rushing ability. Powell will be able to return this week and Durkin credited Powell for his approach to rehabbing.
Ronald has dealt with injuries before and he’s really handled them well in terms of he works really hard at it, getting treatment and everything he’s supposed to do to get healthy. He’s done that. I think he’ll be fine.”
- Damien Jacobs and Darrin Kitchens will both be available this week after missing the Missouri game.
- Aaron Murray is just three touchdown passes away form breaking Danny Wuerffel’s career SEC touchdown mark but Murray has had some of the worst games of his career against Florida. Durkin said the defense goes into every game against Georgia knowing that Murray brings a lot of potential.
He’s been playing there for four years with the same staff, same everything. Offensive staff. So, I think he knows that offense probably as well as the coaching staff does and it shows when you watch it on tape. I mean, he’s very comfortable in what they’re doing and they check him out on a lot of things and I think put a lot on him in terms of protections and checking the play, and he handles it well.”
We’ve got a challenge again this year. They are putting up a lot of points and moving the ball really well. I think we have a good plan. Our guys are excited for the game.”
- Todd Gurley was the only player to rush for 100 yards against Florida last season. He has missed time with an injury this year but will play against Florida on Saturday.
He’s a tough guy to tackle. He runs really hard and has top-end speed to take it the distance but also fights for the tough yards, too. He would help any offense, obviously he helps theirs coming back with the other weapons around him. They’re dangerous. We understand the challenge ahead of us, and we have great respect for him. We have to play hard and tackle.”
Durkin targets targeting
- Cody Riggs was ejected on the very first play of the Missouri game for targeting (the second Gator to be ejected this year for targeting).
- Durkin knows that the rule puts referees in a tough spot because they have been instructed to call the rule tight and error on the side of player safety.
The officials, when it’s a close call, they’re going to call it. That’s what they’re told to do and if I was one of them I’d call it close too, you can’t let one of those slide.”
- Durkin and the coaching staff worked on lowering the target that defenders are taking when attempting to tackle.
- Obviously losing a starting safety on the first play of the game hurt the defense but Durkin and Will Muschamp had the team prepared.
You go into every game being prepared for whether it’s by injury or — obviously you usually don’t do it by a guy being ejected but you plan on contingencies in case something happens. So the next guy went in and we’ve had plenty of that this year, man down man up and that’s what we gotta do and we have plenty of capable guys behind the guys that are starting that can play.”