After facing four teams that run an up-tempo style of offense, the Florida Gators’ defense is preparing for an offense similar to their own. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin talks about the Razorbacks’ physical running game, adjusting to life without Dominique Easley, and freshman phenom Vernon Hargreaves.
Durkin On Arkansas
- This is the third week in a row the Gators are playing a team with a new coaching staff. The staff was watching extra film from Brett Bielema’s Wisconsin teams to prepare for Arkansas.
- Freshman running back Alex Collins started his career with over 100 rushing yards in 4-of-5 games.
“He runs hard, he runs downhill, he’s got good speed, he’s physical, he’s a complete back. He’s definitely challenging.”
“It’s really remarkable. I don’t know all the stats on it, when’s the last time that’s happened or if it has happened. I can’t assume it’s happened very often. His numbers speak for themselves. Again, their style, what they do on offense, really fits him well. He’s the type of back they want in that offense. It’s a big challenge for us.”
- The Arkansas offensive line will be the most physical unit the Gators have faced this season.
- The offense is similar to Florida’s based their common desire to run the ball and their shifts & motions.
- Florida has prepared for up-tempo offenses this year but slowed things down in practices this week for the Razorbacks.
- Arkansas will feature more tight end and two-back sets than they’ve seen but Durkin doesn’t think the Gators have to adjust much. They have different packages for each team they play.
Replacing Dominique Easley
- Durkin hasn’t changed their defensive scheme after losing Easley.
“Our scheme hasn’t changed at all. We do what we do. Obviously he creates a lot of things and is very disruptive in the backfield when he’s in there. Without him, there’s a little difference there. But the guys that are playing are playing really well and we’ve got a good nucleus of guys in there and our scheme stays the same.”
- Jon Bullard playing more inside has alleviated some pain of missing Dominique in the lineup. Bullard would rather play at defensive end but is a team player and hasn’t complained.
- Bullard had to adjust most to taking on more double teams while playing tackle. That’s something Durkin and the defensive staff worked on with Bullard this season.
“You get more hands on you when you’re inside. So yeah, the blocks he sees are a little different, but again, that’s something we’ve been working on with him since Day 1, since before Dominique’s injury, because he was doing some of that. So you know, it is a new thing for him.”
- Arkansas head coach Brett Bielema said that Hargreaves is “Everything you’d want in a player.” Durkin agreed, adding that Hargreaves has a blend of off-field habits, preparation, and talent that make him special.
“I think the most amazing thing is off the field, how he handles himself and carries himself. He’s a veteran player upperclassman but he’s only a freshman.”
- Hargreaves is the most targeted cornerback in the secondary. Durkin credited this to putting the freshman out on an island frequently.
“I know this — we’ve put him in a lot of situations where he’s out there without help and he’s responded. We play a lot of press man. He’s out there and — it’s not him alone; there’s other guys playing the same way — he’s out there alone quite a bit and he’s done a good job responding to it. We try to mix our coverages and help at times, but he’s out there quite a bit.”
Higher scoring in SEC
- The SEC has been a “defense first” league but has seen higher scoring games this season. Durkin attributed it to veteran quarterbacks and the turnover on rosters as teams have lost so many defensive players to the NFL.
“There are some very talented quarterbacks and offenses this year in the SEC. I think it comes down to players all the time, that’s what the game comes down to. So if there’s been a swing with draft picks on one side or the other, maybe that has something to do with it too.”