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Defense's focus turns to shutting down, shutting up, Snell

September 4, 2018
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Benny Snell Jr. says he’s the best running back in the Southeastern Conference.

The Kentucky Wildcats junior made the statement to reporters at this summer’s SEC Media Days, then began his campaign during UK’s 35-20 opening season win against Central Michigan with 125 yards and two touchdowns on 20 touches.

Florida linebacker Vosean Joseph is still waiting to be convinced though.

“He’s alright. It ain’t nothing we haven’t seen before. We’ve done played against Sony Michel and everybody. If you’re better than Sony Michel, you’ve gotta tell me that.”

Michel, the former Georgia running back, had 137 net yards and two touchdowns on six touches during the Dawgs 42-7 beat down of Florida in 2017.

But it’s more than Michel; Joseph feels that his team can overpower Snell on both sides of the ball.

“I ain’t gonna lie to you. I feel like the Gators have got the best running backs. All due respect to Kentucky, but ain’t nobody gonna sit there and disrespect our team like that.”

Whether he’s better than Florida’s unit of backs or not will remain to be seen. In the meantime, the Gator defense and coaches are preparing for the talent that does step onto the field in the form of Benny Snell. In fact, as STAR Chauncey Gardner-Johnson explains, Snell will get the bulk of their attention on Saturday as he should since CGJ says Snell is someone that will do whatever it takes to win.

“Last year, he showed that he’s a good back, make good cuts, catch the ball out of the backfield. He an all-around player. So, our game plan’s really going around him this year. He’s going to carry the load, so we’ve just got to corral him, do what we got to do. At the end of the day, they’ve got good players, and he’s one of the best players on the team. I feel like he’d go both ways to help them win the game. I look forward to playing him. He’s a good player and should be a shootout.”

Head coach Dan Mullen agrees, saying that their game plan goes “a bunch” around Snell and he will demand their focus if the Gators plan on extending their win streak over the Cats to 32.

“He's a great running back, so to be successful and to beat him ... if you don't stop him and stop them running the football, you're going to be in for a long day. You have got to put some emphasis on being able to stop the run."

However, there is danger on keeping their eyes on Snell all night and that’s what Mullen says defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and his defense will have to remember come kick off.

“You have to be sound,” says Mullen.

“They have some playmakers. They have some guys on the outside. They got really a young, athletic quarterback, a guy that we recruited as well. He's obviously is dynamic. The problem comes if you put all your attention on one guy, it's the other guys, the other weapons that go out there and beat you.”

The secondary in particular are keeping their eyes on guys that have spurned them before, as CGJ explains: “They had a guy last year that went up against Duke [Dawson] in the slot, he’s pretty good.”

And the entire corps has earned the nickels respect…but at the end of the day he feels his unit has the experience to shut down the Kentucky receiver unit that had 128 yards in their opener.

“Their receivers are pretty good. They’re lanky, ya know they got some stride to em, they got good hands. It’s a good core overall. I mean they’re not going to just come in here and lay down…they got a good tight end. Ya know, he’s considered a good receiver. Other than that, we just gotta go out there and just play. They got lineups and we got lineups. And may the best man win. And I just feel like with my DBs, Marco [Wilson] and C.J. [Henderson] and [Donovan] Stiner, all the guys on the team I just feel like we got a high chance. They’ve been doing what they doing the last three years and just keep playing.”

That secondary is prepared for Snell as well though, with Marco Wilson saying they’re prepared for those times Snell’s speed sends him to the second level.

“We have to be on top of tackling with a guy like that. We have to focus on a lot of things when we’re going against a good guy like that.”

Because while the defense is preparing for the entire Kentucky offense that will be motivated to avenge last year’s close loss, it will be Snell who gets the majority of their attention. He says he’s the best running back in the SEC and the Florida Gators defense is going to give him the focus he’s asking for on Saturday.

Explains Gardner-Johnson, “Like I said they have a great back. So if he’s back there we know it’s going to him and we gotta do what we do to corral him and get him on the ground and just make sure he doesn’t break one.”

Defense's focus turns to shutting down, shutting up, Snell

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