Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media today as rumors swirled about a possible serious injury to senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley. Durkin did not address to what extent Easley was injured but he did address how the Gators would handle playing without Easley if needed as well as recapping how his unit played against Tennessee and previewing Kentucky.
- Florida is very deep at just about every position on defense and Durkin insisted that the rotation would be fine without Easley. Injuries are a part of the game and the coaching staff has to be prepared for them.
Quotable: “I think at every position on our defense, we have a pretty healthy rotation to where obviously it’s part of the game. It’s nothing you want to happen to anyone or at any position, but we plan for that everywhere. That’s why we play a lot of guys.”
- Dominique Easley “tweaked” his knee on a non-contact play while chasing down a screen pass.
- Durkin complemented the way that Easley has played this season but downplayed how big of a hit it would be to lose him for the season to a serious injury.
Quotable: “Dominique is a guy that has a great motor, great enthusiasm as you can see on the field. I think that’s a contagious thing. I think he’s been very disruptive to many teams in the backfield. He plays the game the way we want guys to play on defense. With all that being said, he’s a part of a whole team of guys that I think are playing well and doing things.”
- Florida is not afraid to play freshmen, especially on defense, The staff is confident that several of the freshmen defensive tackles could move in and play if need be.
- Jay-nard Bostwick, Joey Ivie and Bryan Cox Jr. (a redshirt freshman) are players who will be asked to step up in the event that Easley’s injury keeps him out for any length of time.
- Joker Phillips has helped prepare not only the offensive players but the defensive players as well. Phillips recruited almost the whole roster of players at Kentucky and is very familiar with the team.
- Kentucky has rotated both Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith this season and the Gators are preparing to face both quarterbacks. Whitlow is a dual-threat quarterback and Smith is more of a pocket-passer for the Wildcats.
Quotable: “I think we just have to be prepared for both obviously. They do play both of them and play both of them in all the games and both guys have maybe a different skill-set, but a strong skill-set. They both look like they’re executing what they want to do on offense. And they’ve been able to move the ball and do well. So, we’re obviously watching to see who’s in there and what they like to do with each one. There are some similarities, but there’s also some differences, so we’re just preparing for those.”
On the defense as a whole
- The defense hasn’t played its best game yet. Durkin believes the unit can be more consistent and that there are some things that can be cleaned up.
- Vernon Hargreaves has emerged to be what the coaching staff and fans thought he was coming out of Tampa Wharton and he might even exceed expectations.
Quotable: “He (Hargreaves) has played a lot in every game. He proved early on that he’s mature enough and has the ability to really help us this year, and I think everyone has seen that. It has been pretty apparent when he’s out on the field.”
- Florida’s secondary was hit with injuries and had a player kicked out of the game last week but the unit is so deep that they went largely unaffected. Durkin called having that much depth a “luxury.”
- Loucheiz Purifoy is recovering from a thigh contusion but will reportedly be able to play this week.
- Antonio Morrison is leading the team in tackles despite missing the season opener. Durkin credited Morrison’s preparation as well as his football IQ and instincts as to why he has been able to play so well this season.
Quotable: “Antonio is a guy that practices hard every single day, prepares well in the meeting room, he’s really involved watching film. He loves football and he loves preparing. He’ll continue to improve and get better and better. That’s what makes him a great player.”
- Dante Fowler Jr. had a breakout game against Tennessee. Durkin said that Fowler is just scratching the surface of his potential right now.
On special teams
- Since becoming the defensive coordinator Durkin does not spend nearly as much time coaching on special teams as he used to.
- Kyle Christy’s production has seen a huge drop-off from last season. Durkin said he knows he’s talented and that he will work through whatever is keeping him from performing up to his standard.
- Johnny Townsend was on track to redshirt this season but Christy’s job as the starting punter is not safe. The staff will not hesitate to pull Townsend’s redshirt status if they feel like he is the better option at any point this season.