Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics concerning his unit including how it is preparing for the upcoming road game against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday at 6 p.m.
FRESHMEN CONTRIBUTING FOR GATORS DEFENSE
Four young players – linebacker Antonio Morrison, Buck LB Dante Fowler, defensive end Jonathan Bullard and defensive back Brian Poole – have been early contributors for the Gators on defense, and Quinn said Wendesday that each is on the field not out of necessity but rather because the coaching staff believes they can be effective.
“If we put them out there, we have confidence in them that they can get the job done,” he said.
Standing out the most is Morrison, an early enrollee who has turned the coaches’ heads all offseason and is moving into the starting role at Will this week now that redshirt junior Jelani Jenkins is sidelined with a broken thumb.
“I think it’s a big opportunity for Bo. When he came in as an early enrollee, he really had a maturity level that was not of a normal college freshman. He asked really good questions, wanted to be really on it in terms of the details of playing linebacker. I think that carried through in the spring and all the way to training camp,” Quinn said.
“Even though he’s a freshman, I don’t really see him in that way because I’ve known him, he’s been through the spring, he went through training camp. Although he is a freshman, I guess I don’t see him in that way more so because of the way he handles himself and his experience going through spring practice and training camp and then getting his experience in the first two games.”
Morrison is currently third on the team in total tackles with nine, eight of which are unassisted. He will have a huge opportunity this weekend though he may be relegated back to a reserve role if Jenkins is able to return from thumb surgery with a club on his hand for next week’s game against Kentucky.
“Sometimes on the injury and just when you have that, OK, how effective can you be? He’s got enough football instincts and that kind of stuff that I think he would be able to maneuver with one,” Quinn said of Jenkins. “You learn to play with it as you go forward. Sometimes you may have to play with it for four-five-six weeks and then even then, after a game or two, [you get adjusted and comfortable].”
THREE OUT, TWO IN
“He’ll take the redshirt year and come back,” Quinn said, confirming the statement that head coach Will Muschamp made on Monday. “What a strong attitude that Ronald Powell has. I’ve been very, very impressed with him…just in terms of his attitude and the leadership that he’s shown. Certainly a setback for him, but I have no doubt in my mine – none – that he will be back and stronger than ever.”
The good news for the Gators, however, is that the defense is getting two players back to help the secondary. Redshirt junior CB Jeremy Brown, who actually returned on Saturday against Texas A&M, was a bright spot for Quinn and someone who he knows can be counted on for the rest of the season.
“It was good to see Jeremy, number one, back in there,” he said. “For us, he had been out and then now that we’re getting him back I think you’ll get to see more and more of Jeremy as we’re moving forward. Experienced player who knows how to play. That is a huge value for our defense for him to be able to come back and add that to us. What a great story for him, too.”
Re-joining the team this week is sophomore DB De’Ante Saunders, who hurt his hamstring in fall practice but was also supposedly suspended for the first two games of the season (a notion not confirmed by team representatives).
“We certainly expect him to be a part of the package,” Quinn said of Saunders. “We had some DBs go down this past week. With Cody’s injury it’s going to certainly be a factor for him coming back in. we’re anxious for him to kind of get back in, get the feel and move forward right away.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On the defense hoping to affect the quarterback now that they are facing a drop-back passer: “Generally you feel that way once you see more routes down the field and certainly that’s part of their offense where they’ll try to stretch the field some. They’ll also do some things protection-wise that maybe some other teams haven’t done where, at times, to try to use six or seven [players] to help in that way, too. A little bit of a balancing act for both sides going into the game but certainly a match-up we’re all looking forward to.”
» On the second half turn-around the team experienced on Saturday: “I was very encouraged to see that. I expected to see that.”
» On senior running back Mike Gillislee: “I’ve always been really impressed with Mike Gillislee. I thought he’s a very tough runner, thought he is really good between the tackles, and he is faster than you think on the plays that he bounces outside. [...] He’s certainly a guy that shows he has a nose to get in the end zone. Not all running backs scores a lot of touchdowns. Some guys gets stuffed inside but Mike is certainly one that, when it gets down closer to the goal line, he finds a way to get it in there.”