Florida defense looking forward to flipping the script

Aug 6, 2018 | 0 comments



Gators’ defensive seeking to flip the script comng off of a disappointing 2017 season.

Fast, fierce and tenacious are just a few choice words that could be used to describe the Florida Gators defenses over the previous decade.

The thought of having to face Florida’s defense sent opposing offensive coordinators scrambling for answers.  

“We're Florida. Defense, offense, we're known for turnovers, big plays. We're just trying to get it back,” defensive lineman Jachai Polite said Monday. 

However, that wasn’t the case for Florida and their 2017 defense. Instead, opposing offenses were salivating on the opportunity to play the Gators. From 2008-2016, Florida’s defenses ranked inside the top-ten each year in terms of yards allowed per game.  

That streak vanished just as quickly as Jim McElwain’s tenure in Gainesville did. Falling to 31st in the country in team total defense, and allowing a record number of points per game (27.7) since the 1970s, Florida’s defense simply turned over and folded. 

Coach Dan Mullen understands the importance of being successful and efficient in all three phases of the game. He’s intent on Florida getting back to their reckless and ferocious play. 

“We have some speed off the edges. We have some, if you look at Jachai [Polite] and [Jabari] Zuniga and [Jeremiah] Moon and Cece [Jefferson] and we have some speed off the edges, but I think we have to continue to work with being more physical up front and you get in that phone booth mentality where it’s just going to be a brawl between the tackles. We’ve got to be able to be really stout and physical and continue to develop that mindset up front.” 

Now, with a new scheme implemented from defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, Florida’s defense is feasting at the opportunity to flip the script.  

On Monday, junior defensive lineman Anntoneous Clayton offered his thoughts on the new defense. 

“The potential, I mean I see like the sky’s the limit. I see three and outs every defensive, you know, every defensive turnover or down, it doesn’t really matter because we have guys who step up and you know we have fresh guys that just came in, Trey Dean, [John] Huggins, Chauncey [Gardner-Johnson], CJ [Henderson], Marco [Wilson], all of those guys what they’re supposed to do every day and they just work their fundamentals every day.” 

Players are beginning to feel comfortable in the new scheme, allowing them to fly around the field more aggressively. Last year, aggression was non-existent on this side of the ball and Coach Grantham is hoping to increase the intensity.  

 “Every day, Coach Grantham preaches physicality. Coach Sal [Sunseri] as well. When I go out there every day, I’m always thinking playing physical. They’ve got the guys running around better. Playing more physical out there. Coach [Grantham] wants to be pretty aggressive with the play calling, so I expect a lot of aggressive calls throughout the season,” redshirt freshman Zachery Carter said. 

Defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga added to Grantham’s play calling, “Very aggressive, it’s a lot of different stuff. It’s a lot of blitzes, ya know a lot of plays.” 

Florida bolsters a plethora of depth at defensive line and they envision rotating multiple lineman throughout the game to utilize fresh legs on the field. Fatigue and strength fostered the decline in efficiency last year, but under new Director of Football Strength and Conditioning Coach Nick Savage, several members of the defensive line don’t see themselves being over-powered this season. 

“You’re right about last year in being over-powered,” Luke Ancrum said.  

Ancrum even noted the match-up against Georgia was uneven when discussing the physicality aspect of the game. 

“Because of the weight room program, we have by Coach Savage changed everybody, especially me. I feel like we’re going to be more powerful and fast out there…. I feel like last year it was our mind, just not just we were out of shape, but our mind. Coach Savage and Coach Grantham they are helping us change our mindsets on things and going hard every play,” Ancrum added. 

Florida’s strength as a team is noticeable, with players dropping body fat, adding muscle, and increasing their power in the weight room. A much different mentality on the defensive front is what Florida needs to be successful and Coach Grantham is aiming to get Florida’s defense back to the Gator standard.  

"Of course. Of course. We were 4-7. Nobody wants to be 4-7. We've got something to prove. Everybody's just throwing us to the side, but we're the Florida Gators. We're going to show them,” Polite said.

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