8/31: Quinn discusses defense before opener

By Adam Silverstein
August 31, 2011

With the Florida Gators now in final preparations for the first game of the 2011 season (Sept. 3 vs. Florida Atlantic), defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss his defense’s preparation heading into the opening game.

FRONT SEVEN REALLY COMING ALONG

As head coach Will Muschamp has preached for quite some time, in the Southeastern Conference, it all starts in the trenches. According to Quinn, that is the part of his defensive unit that makes him feel the most confident heading into the season – and for good reason. Not only are the players talented but they (especially the defensive linemen) have proven to be flexible as well.

“One of the good things about the big guys inside is that all the guys are playing more than one position – some are playing nose tackle and defensive tackle, some are playing defensive tackle and defensive end,” he said of the interior linemen. “I’m pleased with the progress of those four guys. Having the ability to make them interchangeable adds value to our defense. I’m encouraged with where they’re at; we’re certainly a work in progress, but I’m encouraged with where we’re at and where we’re headed with that group.” Quinn continued, “You want to put out the best guys and sometimes it might just be for the opponent that you’re playing. Some of it would tie in to a game plan situation and other times, say you had an injury, now a guy is down and you’ve cross-trained a guy to play two spots. [Rather than] having never played there, [he] can step in and keep rolling.”

Perhaps more than any other player in that grouping, sophomore Sharrif Floyd has truly stepped up and moved from his more natural position of defensive tackle to defensive end. “He’s certainly really picked it up well,” Quinn said. “We play him both at D-end in our base package and sometimes at defensive tackle in our nickel package. He’s done a terrific job at that.”

As for the linebackers, junior Jon Bostic has been the one stepping up and making the calls defensively at the Mike position. Quinn believes he is doing a great job thus far and has high hopes for him this season. “He’ll make the checks at the line. In our system, that’s what the Mike does, and Jon has done a good job with that,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in him, I really do. I think he’s got a high football IQ. You can tell he gets concepts fast. He’s done a good job through training camp leading the defense, making the calls, making the checks. He’s off to a really good start.”

Though Bostic has stood out and there are some others who have shined as well, the depth at the linebacker position is a point of contention. Nevertheless, Quinn feels confident about the starters and a few of the primary reserves. “[Redshirt junior Sam LB Lerentee McCray is] a guy that kind of plays two positions as well. We see him as an outside linebacker who can also be a rush end,” Quinn said. “As the inside linebackers go – with Jelani [Jenkins] and Jon – and we’ve had good experience with Michael Taylor and Dee Finley inside – those guys have both played both spots inside as you went through spring and now through training camp, sometimes you played one at Mike, one at Will. We felt it was the best thing to do to get balance and more experience in the system.”

YOUNG SECONDARY PROVIDING A CHALLENGE
[EXPAND Click to expand and read the remainder of this post.]With the season just days away, it is still a mystery which players besides sophomore safety Matt Elam will start in the secondary. Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) is injured, junior S Josh Evans has fallen behind some freshman and no one has truly stepped up and grabbed a hold of a starting job aside from Elam. Quinn said Wednesday that he was still evaluating tape on the cornerbacks but understands the struggles.

“When you have some guys who haven’t played a whole lot, sometimes the roles will emerge as it gets forward. It’s becoming more clear although each day we kind of assess it and say, ‘OK, who’s going to give us the best options to win depending on the package,’” he said. “We have some really talented young guys who need to play and establish some experience. I’m looking forward to seeing them pull through because I think the leadership capabilities are there. As you guys know, sometimes it’s easier to lead when you have some games under your belt.”

Elam earlier in the day noted that he was a bit uncomfortable in the secondary because he did not know who would be playing next to him. Quinn responded to his concerns. “It’s important for all the guys to be able to work together,” he said. “We have a really big emphasis on communication, not just with our secondary but with our whole defense. Sometimes it’s good for those guys to get in a rhythm together, but it’s also important for everybody to understand the rules and communicate together.”

Then he explained why Elam was the one who has been the standout back there. “One of the things you look at [defensive backs] and at safet[ies] is a guy who can make plays on the ball. That was early to me in my evaluation of Matt,” he said. “This was a guy who did a good job of – not only was a good tackler and a good player, he had football savvy – he could really take the ball away. As a defensive player, that’s a critical skill to have and it adds so much value to your team.”

PROUD OF PLAYERS, EXCITED FOR FIRST GAME

One thing Quinn conveyed consistently on Wednesday was that he is very pleased with the overall effort and talent that he is seeing from his defensive players. “The cool part about these guys is they’re eager, they’re willing to learn and they’re into it. They want more information. They want to talk the technique; they want to watch the film,” he explained. “That part has been really fun. You can feel the energy of some of these young guys and they’re so anxious to get started and get playing. Now that game week is here, they even sense a heightened intensity.”

That intensity has translated to Quinn himself, who is pumped about being back in college football after spending such a long time in the NFL. “It’s been different for me for sure. We’ve had the scrimmages and, in my mind, I’ve kind of seen those as preseason games to really get a hard evaluation,” he said. “I’m so excited to get started here. The whole purpose of me coming here was working with Will and be a part of these guys and get going. Now that the season is finally here, I can’t wait.”

He also took some time to discuss both how he felt his unit has progressed as well as his overall defensive strategy. “Through training camp – it was a really good camp. There was toughness, there was finishing. It’s been a big package; we had a big playbook. Now after you install everything, you can kind of pick and choose some of the packages you like for each ball game,” he said. “I’m encouraged about the way the guys are approaching the game in practice. It’s been physical and fast; that’s how our style is, that’s how we want to play. I’m anxious to get started and get going into the season, I really am.”

He added, “[We will be] going after the ball. I’d like us to be a team that is mentally and physically tough. I hope that when you see the tape you say, ‘These guys are really physical. They play with great effort, you can see the toughness shine through on tape and they really attack the ball.’ […] Anybody would like to have that kind of pride about a defense, and certainly that’s what we’re striving for.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

On the team’s best pass rushers so far: “I certainly think the guys from the outside during training camp that’s provided [pass rush] for us have been [William] Green and McCray and [Ronald] Powell. Inside certainly [Dominique] Easley and Floyd are two that stood out to me of the interior rushers, and we’re anxious to get those guys going on third down.”

On the emergence of freshman CB Marcus Roberson: “With corners, at times when a guy has speed and length, it helps you as a cover guy. He has some of the traits to help him in coverage, but he’s still young and learning in the system and developing. But when a guy does have speed and length, sometimes it enables you to play a little different style and match up on some bigger receivers at times. He has that, and I’m really looking forward to seeing him develop. He’s come into camp and he’s really had a good training camp. He’s made an impression on me.”

On combining the 3-4 and 4-3 defenses into one playbook: “I think it may look harder at times than it is. When you combine both the 3-4 and the 4-3 packages, it adds some value in terms of how the offense will have to prepare against you. That’s one thing that Will and I have always believed in. There may not be a thousand calls in each package, but we felt like it’s enough for this game to do what’s best.”

On letting his players play but not opening the playbook too much: “As you’re going into your first game, you want to give your guys the best chance to play fast and physical, and that’s what we’ll do in this week’s game.”

On coaching on the field instead of upstairs: “Mostly on the field. I like to be able to talk to the guys and make the adjustments right there, so that’s what I’ll be doing.”

On his relationship with Muschamp: “One of the good parts about Will, even though he’s doing a terrific job as head coach, he’s still in the defensive meetings. All the calls are still there. We’re together a good bit of the day – 18 hours sometimes we’re right there side-by-side. We really see things a lot alike, and that was true even before I got here, since we had worked together before.”

On how and why he and Muschamp might disagree: “Probably something with my background defensive line and pass rushing, and his background with the secondary and coverage. He may want it a little bit different than I would see it, and vice versa from the back end. If he says it’s how we’re going to do it, that’s how we’re going to do it.”[/EXPAND]

2 Comments

  1. Greg says:

    Future head coach…

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