The 2011 Florida Gators football season was one of the worst years in recent memory.
The defensive unit, while vastly outplaying their offensively-minded brethren, did their fair share of struggling themselves. While the offense struggled to move the ball throughout ballgames, their poor gameplay defensively came mostly in the fourth quarter of games.
In order to prevent a repeat of last season, the veteran-laden 2012 edition of the Florida Gators defense is going to have to take responsibility for their actions on the field; and, according to Quinn, it has to be done on every run, every pass, every single play, in order for the Gators to be successful.
After winning national championships in 2006 and 2008, Gators football fans had grown accustomed to a certain level of gameplay. During the rebuilding campaign that was the 2011 season, fans were forced to stomach a team that could barely pass the football, hardly gain anything on the ground against SEC opponents, and regularly get outscored in the decisive fourth quarter of football games, however.
Thus, the team and the coaching staff were forced to take a step back and reevaluate where the team was headed moving toward the 2012 season. There are ten returning starters on defense this season, and all of them understood, along with the coaching staff, what needed to be done.
This was not going to be fun.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was amongst the coaches who knew what needed to be done: “It’s going to be hard, and I want to push the skills hard…In training camp, it’s this constant thrust of evaluating people and putting them in different spots, using the competition that we have to motivate the guys…and challenge them a lot and really stay on them…It’s been tough. It’s been physical.”
For the athletes, the practices haven’t been any fun.
The importance of hard work, of dogged determination, cannot be understated. However, Quinn also knows how important it is to make sure his players understand why they are working so hard. Before members of the team went off in their various directions following their bowl game victory over Ohio State (minus Urban Meyer, Jim Tressel, and national title aspirations), Quinn supplied each and every one of his defensive guys a tape of themselves so they could evaluate what each of them had done right and wrong as the season progressed.
He wanted his players to be accountable for their actions. He wanted his guys to see themselves failing in the fourth quarter. He wanted them to come into summer training motivated, not by the coaching staff, but by each other.
He wanted each of them to ‘autograph their games’, but signatures aren’t worth much if you’re only winning the Taxslayer.com Bowl.
“It’s a really good opportunity for the people to put on tape who they are and that’s what I’d like to see in terms of autographing your performance in this scrimmage. I’d like to see the communication be really good. I’d like to see the busts go down. I’d like to see us focus on some takeaways…Getting our hands on the ball, whether it’s by fumbles or whether it’s by interceptions. Those are some of the things that I’m looking for. From the individual player, I want to see them put on tape who they are. Say this is a guy who can be counted on and trusted with all the calls, so we’re aiming in that direction heading into the weekend.”
With increased levels of fitness, work ethic, and togetherness, maybe, just maybe, the defense is going to have some fun this year.