No. 18/19 Florida Gators (1-1) defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin spoke with the media on Wednesday, and a number of players chimed in throughout the week, ahead of the third game of the season against the Tennessee Volunteers (2-1) on Sept. 21.
SIGNING “ROCKY TOP”
Florida fans may cover their ears when the Tennessee band blares “Rocky Top” – especially when it’s done at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – but the players on the field have no such option. A number of Gators were asked this week how they handle the song and many, somewhat surprisingly, admitted that they sing along with it.
“[The] song gets so annoying you got to make the best out of it,” said senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley, who noted that he only knew the words “Rocky Top” but not the rest of the song. “That’s stunning to you?”
Junior fullback Hunter Joyer chimes in as well: “When we flex and warm up and stuff and they play that, I sing a little bit. … It’s a good song. I don’t like Tennessee, but it’s a good song.”
As competitive a player as Florida has on its roster, redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor said he has never uttered the words to the Vols’ tune. “Nope. I’ve never seen a Rocky Top mountain, so I don’t really sing it. I mean, we know the words because the song is kind of corny but that’s about it.”
So what does he think about his teammates singing it during the game? “We’re usually winning,” he said, “so it’s pretty much an insult to them.”
Senior safety Jaylen Watkins, playing his last game against Tennessee, notes: “All of us hate the Rocky Top [song]. It will be good to not hear it anymore.”
He is more focused on winning. “This is a big rivalry, and it would be great to leave and say I never lost to Tennessee.”
SHIFT IN THE SECONDARY
A relatively poor performance for redshirt freshman safety Marcus Maye, who started the first two games of his career against Toledo and Miami, moved him off of the first string at least for the time being. Replacing him is Watkins, who many believed would start at safety anyway this season.
“Jaylen’s been a guy for us all along that has played more than one position. It’s nothing new. It’s just a matter of shuffling things around and getting our best guys on the field at one time,” said Durkin on Wednesday. “However we got to do that, we’re constantly talking about our depth chart and our personnel and building our packages to get the best 11 guys on the field to go execute what we want to do.”
Said Taylor of his teammate moving into the starting lineup: “Jaylen’s a smart football player. He knows the defense very well. I think he’ll be able to execute very well for us back there and provide us with some big plays. Not saying that anybody else wasn’t able to, but he’ll be able to provide us with some big plays that we need as well.”
Durkin spoke on Maye’s demotion, noting that he will still see plenty of time on the field. “Marcus Maye is and will continue to be a great player for us. He’s very talented. He’s got to continue to learn and grow and get comfortable with what he’s doing back there,” he said. “But I think Marcus Maye, we have all the confidence in the world he can play. And he will. You’ll see him out there, and he’s going to really help us.”
PREPARING FOR TENNESSEE’S OFFENS(IVE LINE)
Florida on Saturday will go against a team in the middle of a quarterback competition. Justin Worley started Tennessee’s first three games and remains No. 1 on the depth chart – his numbers of 35-for-57 for 372 yards with five touchdowns and one interception are not terrible – but could be replaced by reserves Nathan Peterman, Riley Ferguson or Josh Dobbs.
Durkin did not appear concerned when asked about his team’s preparation.
“We have our game plan and we talk to our guys about learning what the difference may be in the two of them,” he said. “We’re more focused on us, what we need to do and prepare, and what they do scheme-wise as an offense. … We just got to be locked in to our assignments and do a good job of being physical up front.”
The Gators better be physical at the line of scrimmage because the best unit on the Volunteers’ offense right now is its line.
Durkin and head coach Will Muschamp both praised the offensive line this week and explained the importance of dominating that unit to the players.
“That’s what coach drilled into us to make us have a great week of practice to prepare. He said they’re the most experienced and one of the best that we’re going to play all season,” explained sophomore defensive end Jonathan Bullard. “With leadership like Easley, him playing against them so much, he’ll know little things about them. And he pushes us in practice, the younger guys, to work as hard as we have ever because this is going to be a great match-up up front this week.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Taylor on the defense putting up impressive numbers: “The numbers are good but the number that really matters is wins and losses. We’re not on the right side of that right now. We’re supposed to be 2-0 and we’re 1-1 right now. So that’s the main stat they’re concerned about. It’s not about how many tackles your linebackers have, how many picks your DBs have. The main thing is wins and losses. Turnovers and us playing well leads to that, but the main thing is wins and losses, so I see where they’re coming from with that.”
» Easley on the penalty called against him at Miami: “I didn’t agree with it. I don’t agree with a lot of things people call, but you got to deal with it.”
» Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs on the impact of the bye week: “It was real big because we had a good chance to get healthy. A lot of guys needed it. It was a real benefit because we ha d a lot of time to work on our own team.”
» Jacobs on Florida’s talent on the defensive line: “I think we can probably set records as a defensive line with the pass rush we have. Easley and [Ronald] Powell are just going to demand so much away from everyone else. We got Bullard, [Dante] Fowler, myself, Leon [Orr]. All those guys can make plays, too. Somebody’s going to be distracted by someone, so there should be a lot of one-on-ones somewhere else.”
» Redshirt senior center Jonotthan Harrison on why he left the Miami game at one point: “I just had a little stomach bug going on. Something I ate, I’m not sure, whatever. … It was just a little stomach bug. I was out for one drive.”
» Senior wide receiver Trey Burton on the Wildcat package: “I really enjoy it. I know you all don’t like it with all your Twitter posts and stuff like that. I really, really enjoy it, and I think it works really well. We wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work well.”
» Burton on the positives and negatives of using the Wildcat: “Positives is they have to spend time game planning for it, which is kind of hard. They have to know what they want to do and when they don’t do the right thing, big runs happen and things like that.”
» Redshirt junior Neiron Ball on moving from outside to inside linebacker: “I think I’m able to use my athletic ability more. I just feel more effective on the inside than outside. … I still got some growing to do but so far I just feel comfortable. I get to run more with different routes, more man-to-man. With Sam, you play more to the flat, more not isolated. Now I get to just run with guys and use my athletic ability.”
» Ball on if more is demanded from the defense compared to the offense: “I think for every team the defense should be held to a higher standard than the offense because defense wins championships.”
» Redshirt junior running back Mack Brown on teaming up with sophomore RB Matt Jones: “I feel like we’re just getting started. I feel like our one-two punch can be one of the best in history, really. He’s a great back. … We’re both getting our confidence back right now. It’s going to be a good season.”