Muschamp, Durkin looking to fix UF’s secondary

By Adam Silverstein
October 2, 2014

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Wednesday to provide some additional thoughts on Florida’s first loss (on the road at Alabama) and the Gators’ upcoming road contest against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday at noon.

INJURY UPDATES

Two days after initially listing him as questionable, Muschamp ruled freshman running back Brandon Powell (hamstring) as out for his second-straight game. Redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr (kneee) was previously listed as inactive by Muschamp, and redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor (knee) may join him if he is unable to put together a full practice before the team leaves for Knoxville, Tennessee.

While the Gators may be without two defensive starters on Saturday, they will be getting back a starting offensive lineman in junior left tackle D.J. Humphries. Muschamp said Humphries “looked great” in practice on Tuesday and should be full-go for Saturday.

REPAIRING A DAMAGED SECONDARY

Florida’s secondary has been bad through its first three games of 2014. How bad? The Gators are ranked 110th nationally in passing yards allowed per game (287.7)…and that’s with the team giving up just 45 yards through the air to Eastern Michigan.

Remove that EMU game and UF has allowed 409.0 yards passing yards per game and 17.4 yards per completion over its last two contests. Stunning, huh?


So when Muschamp was asked what is wrong with Florida – and more specifically, his defense – he was on-point to note that it was not quarterback play or pass rush.

“Secondary. We haven’t played very well. We haven’t communicated. We’ve given up too many big plays,” he said matter-of-factly on Wednesday.

“We’ve played blocks well up front; we’ve played well enough up front. We need to get more pressure with four guys rushing. But our linebackers have hit the runs well and done some nice things in coverage and pressures and things, but we have not played well enough in the secondary. We’re looking for different combinations of guys, and we’re going to continue to do that. Guys have to go out and communicate and do things the right way.”

Durkin broke it down further Wednesday afternoon.

“Obviously we just got to get back to getting our eyes in the right place, back to technique and fundamentals in the back end. The blown coverages and the big plays, you can’t survive as a defense when you do that. Obviously now we’ve had a couple of those.”

The Gators have given up passing touchdowns of 60, 33, 25, 87 and 79 yards over their last two games. Juxtaposed to last year, when Florida’s offense played so poor that the onus was placed on the defense to win games, this season the Gators’ defense is struggling so badly that the offense is being forced to try and atone for the mistakes of the other side of the ball.

The problem? Florida’s 2014 offense is nowhere near as talented as the team’s 2013 defense, though it is as experienced with veterans at every single position.

“I think it’s a matter of experience, and from my standpoint as a coach and the coaching staff, we got to do a better job of making things a little simpler for them and making sure that doesn’t happen. I know we’re talented enough. We got guys that are willing and ready to compete. We just got to make sure we’re in the right spots,” said Durkin.

“We play some good teams. Some guys are going to make some plays against us. That’s fine. That’s always going to be the case. But we’ll win more than we’re going to lose if we’re in the right spots to make the plays.”

While the Gators’ coaching staff spent the last two weeks moving players around in the secondary to find the best combination of starters, the unit coming together on the field in a raucous environment is something that will have to be seen in order to be believed.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on the offense’s struggles, including those of redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel: “He’s forced some balls. … He’s had a bunch of drops; we’ve had over 10 drops at the receiver position. We have a couple drops at the tight end position. Our protection has been good. But we’ve had our opportunities, and it’s not all on Jeff. We’ve got to do a better job as an entire offense executing. certianly Jeff is a part of that.”

» Muschamp on whether Florida’s confidence has been shaken: “I think we’re confident. I think that we’ve had good prep in the open week, and I think we’ve had good preparation through this week, and your preparation builds confidence in what you do. You go back and what I’ve tried to do is look at from fall camp up until this point of the positive things that we’ve done, you know? It’s obvious a lot of negativity surrounds us here. I think our guys have seen that and understand the type of football team we can have when we put it together and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”

» Durkin believes the Gators’ young defense got “wide-eyed” against Alabama and was unable to bounce back after giving up some big plays, whereas more experienced players are able to rebound and get off the field on the next series. “I think they’re ready to go,” Durkin said of his defense.

10 Comments

  1. 1974Gator says:

    From what I’ve seen of TN (especially against Georgia AT Georgia) all these things had better be fixed. Both the offense and defense have very little margin for error. Neyland will be a tougher stadium than Bryant Denny and the Vols will be geeked. We cannot afford to think that we are the Mighty Gators and take them for the teams they have been for the past 10+ years.

  2. gatorboi352 says:

    I don’t care how good the secondary is. If you can’t score (or hell, can’t even move the chains continuing to go 3 and out) it won’t matter how great the defense is, they’ll be gassed by the second half.

    Keep missing the forest for the trees, Boom.

  3. ntcrze says:

    The gators talent level is not high. Poole, Gorman, Maye, and Neal can’t cover anybody and the true freshmen are still too green to be counted on. Unless the Gator’s can bother the quarterback, which they have yet to do, it’s going to be a longe season. Tennessee is the Gators Rubicon, if they cross the wrong side there will be no turning back, the team will fall apart just like last year, only there won’t be the injury excuse.

    • Crenshaw says:

      Agree. Im a big believer in fate, and I got a really bad feeling about this one, thats all Im gonna say!

    • Steven says:

      But but Muschamp is a great recruiter.
      Isn’t that what we have been told for the last 4 years?

      I for one have always taken the stance that his recruiting is subpar. Very similar to the mack brown Texas strategy where you take the 3 star in the hand over the 5 star in the bush. That’s how you end up winning 4 games a year

      • G2 says:

        I agree, look at the performance on the field. It’s either subpar recruiting or subpar coaching…… not a good scenario either way.
        This is a huge game for the football program as a whole. We get our act together and win on the road, things trend upward. Lose this game and we fall to pieces again. If we can’t beat a rebuilding team like Tenn, how we gonna beat Ga, SC, Mizzu, Lsu, Fsu….??

  4. Michael Jones says:

    10 whole drops over 3 games?!?! Are you kidding me??? That’s 3.33 a game. . . almost 1 a quarter. . that must be some kind of a world record!! That explains everything!!!! NOT.

    Dropped passes are a part of every game and every offense and every QB in football has to deal with them. Just like injuries, they are not unique to U.F. Lame.

    And I don’t think the defense got wide-eyed, because they were taking it to Bama early (except for the poorly coached secondary getting torched). They got tired because Muschamp is one of those old school dudes who plays his 1st stringers to the point of exhaustion (including against Bama’s future NFL OL). Hence the lack of development and hence the devastating impact that injuries have on this program.

  5. W2 says:

    I really hate to say it but watching the Smokes play I really hope the Gators play better. If not ughhhh. More pressure on the QB and better QB play pls. Go Gators

  6. Gatorballdude says:

    I think our spread offense has started to look more like last years pro set albeit Jeff’s in the shotgun. What I mean is conservative play calling and predictability. If Jeff blows a pass or throws a pic you know Roper gets timid then the 3 up the middle runs get called. We need to play looser and take some chances.

  7. USA says:

    Our offensive game plans has been “getting the ball in Matt Jones hands”. And that does not give us the best chance to win. Giving the ball to Jones is what creates that offensive predictability because he’s a north-south runner not a playmaker. I thought Taylor would be our starting rb this year not Jones. Taylor is way more explosive and gives us a better chance at scoring points. Once again, its all on Muschamp and his poor stubborn decision making. I still feel like Roper isn’t 100% in charge of our play-calling. But after looking back at Duke’s games last year Roper ran an uptempo spread offense but it was predicated on running the football in the power game mainly up middle. And I think that has confused a lot of Gator fans. When you mention the word “spread” and “tempo” people automatically think we’ll be throwing the ball more but that is not the case with Roper’s offense. His tempo offense is unique in that he doesn’t really take a lot of downfield chances. Its basically a pro-style offense except Driskel is in the shotgun. Most of our pass plays are 3 yard hitches to the WRs and 5 yard out-routes to the TEs. Roper’s offense in not an explosive passing offense it is a running offense, which is why Muschamp hired him because he wants to run the ball up the middle in the power game. We need to get the ball in our playmaker’s hands. Debose, Taylor, and Powell all should be be getting more touches. Other schools in the conference are getting the ball in their playmaker’s hands. I’d love to see Debose at QB in the wildcat with Taylor and Powell in the backfield with him using the zone read. I guess that is wishful thinking though, with Muschamp calling the shots.

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