October 26, 2011

Breakdown: Florida defense

The Breakdown - Florida's Defense

Defensive Line

Ronald Powell - Powell is one of the best athletes in the SEC and has big time potential. Powell is very similar to Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. He is officially listed as a defensive end, but he plays in both a two and four point stance throughout the game as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end that the Florida defensive staff calls their "Buck" position. No one can question his athleticism, but the sophomore has struggled so far in 2011. He is averaging two tackles per game and, while he has two sacks on the year, one of those game against Florida Atlantic. He has been vulnerable against the run, especially when he is playing with his hand down, and the California native lacks a power pass rushing move to get to the quarterback. Teams have been able to handle the former 5-star recruit with one offensive lineman, and he has been most effective when he is allowed to use his speed to run plays down. Powell is used in a variety of roles and is comfortable when he is asked to get involved in coverage. It is important to note that Powell has been banged up all season.

• Shariff Floyd - Floyd is another 5-star recruit that came in the 2010 class. At 6-foot-3 295 pounds, the Philadelphia native is one of the biggest defensive ends in the Southeastern Conference, and Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn uses him as a run stopper. Floyd has attracted his fair share of double teams, but has struggled to make plays. His overall play has been inconsistent this fall, and he often takes plays off or plays too high to get into the backfield. Despite his erratic play, Floyd is extremely strong and tough to move. Most tackles find it tough to block down on him, and this does decrease the size of off tackle running lanes.

Dominique Easley - Easley is yet another 5-star defensive lineman that came in the 2010 class, and he has been Florida's most impressive defender in their front seven. The New York native has a compact frame at 6-foot-2 285 pounds, but he has long arms that he uses very well to shed blocks and drag down ball carriers. Easley has a rare combination of strength and quickness, and he plays with a mean streak. While he takes it too far at times, he usually controls himself between the lines and does a good job drawing double teams to free up the linebackers. Easley is explosive and Georgia will most likely have to commit more than one blocker to him on running plays to his side. He is a threat to create negative plays any time he is allowed to work in a one-on-one situation.

Jaye Howard - Howard is Florida's heaviest and most experienced defensive lineman. At 6-foot-3 305 pounds, Howard has started games in three separate seasons for the Gators, and he is a very reliable and solid defender up front. Howard doesn't make many plays in the backfield, but it is rare for him to get blocked out of a play. He does a good job of controlling his gap, and he plays with a great deal of energy. Howard is not as athletic as the other Gator defensive linemen, but he plays smart and uses leverage well.


Lerentee McCray - McCray has played all over the field for the Gators this fall, and he has been a pleasant surprise. In Powell's absence, McCray has worked at the buck position and he has played it well. He is a solid edge rusher when used in a pass rush role, but he can also explode to the inside to collapse the pocket. McCray is decent against the run but not great. He struggles with keeping outside leverage at times and has a tendency to stick his nose inside on plays where he needs to be focusing on contain responsibilities or watching for a cutback. McCray is a liability in space and has struggled to make tackles against receivers and running backs in space.

Jelani Jenkins - Jenkins is Florida's smallest but best all around linebacker. Jenkins has the ability to hang with running backs and tight ends in coverage, but he is also very good against the run. He is a guy that relies on quickness and does a good job of playing under blocks to make tackles. He is only 6 feet tall and tips the scales at 230 pounds, but he plays with a great deal of leverage and unloads on ball carriers in the hole. Blocking Jenkins is absolutely essential if Georgia is going to have success in the running game.

Jon Bostic - Bostic is a physical linebacker that is a very good run stopper. Bostic is has a thick build and is a solid tackler inside the tackles. The junior linebacker will often struggle when making tackles on the outside and it is mainly due his lack of lateral speed. Bostic is textbook when taking on blocks from lead blockers, and almost always maintains appropriate leverage. Bostic is the emotional leader of the Gator defense but showed against Alabama that he can let his emotions get the best of him as he took a swing at D.J. Fluker after a play. Bostic is the leader of the Florida front seven and he's most comfortable with Quinn's pressure system.

Defensive Backs

Marcus Roberson - Roberson was a guy that the Georgia staff went after hard late in the process in the 2011 recruiting class, and for good reason. Roberson has earned the starting job for the Gators at corner, and he has done a good job in 2011. Roberson is considered to be a big corner at 6 feet tall with long limbs and excellent athleticism. He is flexible in his hip turn, and runs with receivers well. He has the ability to play man coverage, but he is stronger in zone. Despite being a freshman, Roberson plays well against the run and is a decent tackler.

Cody Riggs - Riggs has been two completely different players in 2011. Against the early part of Florida's schedule, Riggs was physical, energetic, and very effective. Against the latter part of their schedule, he has been very beatable and it appears as if he could be a little nicked up. He isn't challenging receivers like he did earlier in the year and he is noticeably less aggressive. Riggs is a big time talent and has all of the tools to hang with good receivers. He has excellent hip turn and great acceleration. He has make up speed that defensive back coaches love as well. Riggs is short but has explosive leaping ability and he elevates quickly. He is an average tackler at best.

Matt Elam - Elam has been Florida's most consistent defender in the defensive backfield this fall. He is smaller than the prototypical safety, but he makes up for his size with great instincts and excellent athleticism. Elam is a solid tackler on plays in front of him but he struggles when ball carriers get to his depth and initiate the contact. Elam will play all over the field and expect the Gators to use him in various roles to defend the run and the pass.

De'Ante Saunders - Saunders is another small safety, and he has had plenty of struggles this fall. Saunders is Florida's smallest defensive back at 5-foot-8 192 pounds, and he has struggled both in coverage and in run support. The biggest reason for this struggle hasn't been due to his small stature. It has been because of his inexperience. Saunders is only a freshman and he has played with the inconsistency of a freshman this fall. His play did improve against Auburn, but it remains to be seen if he can put a complete game together in a big SEC game.


• 1st Down - The Gators will play base defense, for the most part, on first down. They will line up in a base 4-3, 3-4, or nickel set depending on the offense's personnel, and they will elect to run a base zone or man coverage with no blitz about 59% of the time.

• 2nd Down and long (7 or more yards) - Quinn likes to bring pressure on second and long and its for the purpose of putting the offense away (62%). Quinn will often bring an overload blitz and that overload will often come from the boundary with a defensive end, linebacker, and a defensive back.

• 2nd down and medium (4-7 yards) - Florida has no tendency on this down and distance as they will blitz (52%) only slightly more than they will play base defense (48%).

• Second down and short (4 yards or less) - Most teams will play it safe on this play action down and try to play teams with their base set. At worst, they live to fight again on first down. The Gators, however, will bring the blitz (58%) on second and short in an attempt to force mistakes by opposing quarterbacks with pressure.

• 3rd Down - Third down pressure has been a staple of Muschamp defenses in the past and it is no different now that he has turned the call sheet over to Quinn. The Gators bring pressure on third down over 60% of the time regardless of the distance, and they have had mixed success. They gave Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray fits with third down pressure from the inside, but they weren't able to get to much pressure on Jarrett Lee or Jordan Jefferson against LSU.

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