Toney and Spencer breakdown on the Florida Gators’ defense for this fall

Written by Gentry Hawk

There was a lot to take away from the press conference when the staff spoke to the media Tuesday morning to kick off fall camp. There were a couple of things though that stood out to me when Coach [Patrick Toney and Coach [Sean] Spencer took the podium. When it comes to scheme changes and what to expect from this year’s defense, I think there’s plenty for gator fans to be excited about.

Spencer had very high praise for sophomore defensive lineman Gervon Dexter, who he says has the ability to play any position on the line for them this year because of how well his techniques carry over to that specific position.

“Yeah, he’s a guy that really can play a lot of multiple positions for us. So he can play end for us and he can also do some other things. He’s just a guy that the techniques, no matter where he plays, those techniques will carry over”, said Coach Spencer when asked what the strengths of Gervon’s game are, as well as Dexter’s comment about playing defensive end this year. This was interesting, but not surprising given the lack of depth on the line this year.

Tyreak Sapp was also a big-name Spencer was asked about Tuesday, and what his expectations for him are entering this season. “He had a heck of a spring, just unbelievable football, played great energy, work ethic, always. He’s got a great skill set, a powerful kid. We’re excited about him”, said Spencer.

Gervon and Tyreak weren’t the only players Spencer seemed to be excited about though. As Gervon himself went on to say how he expects sophomore defensive lineman Princely Umanmielen, and Sophomore defensive lineman Jalen Lee to make a huge jump this year. Spencer went on to say this when asked about Gervon’s comment and what he expects from the two linemen.

“Both of those guys had really good springs. Obviously Princely played a lot of football last year. Jalen did not as much, but he did play some. He had a rotational roll there. So same thing with everyone else. We expect them to ascend from what they were prior, where they were prior. So prior to that, in the spring, they had a level. I want it to go up a notch. I’m excited about both guys. I think Jalen is a technician, he’s like Sapp. And I think Princely is really a guy who has not even reached a ceiling of where he can go,” said Coach Spencer when asked about the growth he’s seen from the two players and his expectations for them. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your name is to Sean Spencer, he expects the same out of all his players.

Right after Spencer took the stand, defensive coordinator Patrick Toney was given the room where he talked about his philosophy on third down and his defensive scheme as a whole. As well as a couple of key players to keep an eye on as we head into fall camp.

When asked about his philosophy on third down, at first Coach Toney joked and said, “yeah, get off the field”. Then went into a more serious note and had this to say about what he expects from his defense on third down. “Philosophically we want to contest every route. We want to make it hard for the quarterback. We want to affect the quarterback. He is, obviously the guy with the hardest job. He has to deliver on third down. So how can we contest him, make him throw in tight windows. And then with that being said, how can we affect the quarterback directly, get the ball out of his hand, and hopefully not in rhythm,” said Toney. “Philosophically we want to play close and tight to the receivers. Don’t want to let them have free access, and then we want to affect the quarterback with our rush and pressure,” said Coach Toney about his philosophy.

Toney also agrees with Spencer when it comes to Gervon being a flexible player and being able to play other positions. “His overall versatility, his basketball background, his athleticism, that tends to help him across the front. You’ll see him play in a variety of techniques and positions throughout the course of the year,” said Toney about Gervon.

Given the fact that there’s tons of competition this year in the secondary. Toney cleared up exactly how they will deal with that situation, and how we will see the defensive backs be utilized this season. “I think we are going to play a brand of defense where we utilize the secondary quite a bit. You’ll see five defensive backs on the field a good amount for us, on some situations six,” said Toney. “We’re going to find roles and put them in the position they’re most capable of playing.”

One player that Toney seemed to be showing love to was Senior safety Trey Dean, who he thinks we will see make a jump at the safety position compared to what we saw last year. “The big thing we talk about at the safety position does not only do we want to be the most gifted, but we want to be the most skilled players on the field. That means we have a mental checklist lining up. We’re scanning the formation, seeing the down in distance. We are knowing our exact alignments. We’re seeing a specific key to get our job done. I think Trey has done a good job focusing on those areas of his game, the details of becoming the most skilled player on the field. I think you’ll see that translate this season,” said Toney about Trey and the safety position.

There’s one name specifically Gator Nation needs to look out for, and his name is Devin Moore. The rave on Moore has been loud as of recently after his spring game showing and performance in practice. Senior linebacker Ventrell Miller mentioned at media days how much of a problem he will be for opposing quarterbacks. Here’s what Toney had to say when asked about Miller’s comment.

“Devin was the first recruit I talked to when I took this job. He has done a really good job, man. He is extremely mature for his age. He is smart. He picks up fast, is very athletic, has great length, he’s done a tremendous job in spring and continued that through summer,” said Toney. “So I do think Ventrell was right. I think he will play a factor in our secondary for sure. Been very excited about working with him. He is great to work with.”

Overall, I’d say where we stand on the defensive side of the ball is a heck of a lot better than where we were a year ago under the last defensive staff. Toney and this staff know

What they are doing. Gator nation should be able to finally rest today knowing that the defensive side of the ball is in great hands, is being taken care of, and slowly getting back to its old roots.

Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.