Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Wednesday ahead of the fifth game of the season against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Oct. 5.
FRESHMAN SENSATION EARNING RESPECT
It only took four games, but freshman Vernon Hargreaves III appears to have become the most feared cornerback on Florida’s roster.
“Well, he was the SEC Freshman of the Week for a reason,” Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said on Wednesday. “He’s very talented. I remember recruiting him out of high school, at least watching him on film. He’s everything that you want at the position. He’s very, very confident. He’s very aggressive. I think there’s probably some people that went after him and maybe they regretted that decision afterward. … I know this: he’s impressed me on film.”
Asked later in the day about Bielema’s comments, Durkin agreed with his opponent this Saturday.
“Vernon, obviously on the field talent-wise and ability-wise, that’s a pretty clear thing to see whether it was evaluation from high school up to here or now when we’ve seen him playing college ball. But I think the most amazing thing is off the field, how he handles himself and carries himself,” Durkin said. “He’s a veteran player, upperclassman, but he’s only a freshman. That’s the way he carries himself, he acts, the way he handles himself in meetings, the way he prepares for games and so I think you have something special there when you mix all that together.”
Though Durkin said he never felt as if teams were attacking Hargreaves because he is a freshman, he did say that the opportunity for that to happen has been there because Hargreaves has spent so much time on the field already.
“I know this: we’ve put him in a lot of situations where he’s out there without help and he’s responded. We play a lot of press man. He’s out there and…it’s not him alone – there’s other guys playing the same way – he’s out there alone quite a bit and he’s done a good job responding to it. We try to mix our coverages and help at times, but he’s out there quite a bit.”
STEPPING INTO THE MIDDLE
Sophomore defensive end Jonathan Bullard has spent his football playing career working from the outside of the defensive line, trying to get around defensive tackles and tight ends in order to stop runs and hit the quarterback. He has had a new perspective this season and especially last week at Kentucky.
“It ain’t the easiest thing to do, but it’s what I got to do,” said Bullard on playing defensive tackle, “so I’ve been working on different things, different techniques, learning how to take on different blocks and different situations. … I got to adjust to it and I got to adjust fast.”
Bullard was cross-trained in the offseason to play inside but will see even more reps at the position now that senior Dominique Easley is out for the season. He was candid with his feelings about the move.
“I’m not going to say I enjoy it, but it is what I got to do. For the time being, it’s what we need, so I got to step in and do the best I can,” he said. “I wouldn’t really say it’s much of a drag. It’s just something I’m not used to doing. I haven’t ever did it before, so of course I don’t feel as comfortable inside as I do outside. … After I get the hang of it and get used to it, I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
Durkin said that Florida’s defense has not changed its scheme “at all” following Easley’s injury. He is also proud of Bullard, who he noted is having trouble adjusting to being double teamed but is improving on a week-by-week basis.
“Jon’s a very talented player,” he said. “He’s a guy that’s tough to block. He’s good at the point of contact. He’s played a lot of football for us. Just in his year and a half of being here, he’s played a lot of football. I think it’s good. He gets different matchups. Sometimes he’s on a tackle, sometimes he’s on a guard. I think that’s something we can take advantage of.”
» On how junior CB Loucheiz Purifoy has been playing: “I think he’s played really well. I think he needs to be more consistent. That’s kind of the message to the whole defense. Missing some time early on, he’s getting better and better every week. With Loucheiz, it’s just a matter of being on it every down technique-wise and fundamentally. He’s got great ability; he’s got great competitiveness. The guy plays hard and anything you ask him to do on any side of the ball he’s gonna do it really well and that’s what we just harp on him – doing it technique sound, because when he does that he’s pretty darn good.”
» On whether Purifoy is still practicing with the offense at times: “Yeah, he’s always working with all three phases of the game. Those guys have their select plays and plan for them. And then obviously we do on special teams as well.”
» On redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor’s performance so far this season: “Mike plays with a certain style, a style that we like, that we embrace on defense. He epitomizes what we want to be. He’s a tough, physical guy. He plays really hard. And I think you’ve seen that on the field. That’s how he plays. The guy makes a lot of tackles, and I think these kinds of games coming up are his style. Mike has played a lot of football here, although maybe not been the starter the past couple of years or what not he’s played a lot of big games and helped us win a lot of big games. We’re getting out of Mike what we expect out of Mike and what he expects out himself.”
» On whether junior CB Marcus Roberson (knee) will play on Saturday: “All those guys back there are gonna play a role. We do it at every position. He’ll be part of the rotation back there at the back end. We’ve got several guys we feel really good about that we think can play and help us. He’s one of them and he’ll rotate.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On Arkansas freshman running back Alex Collins: “He runs hard, he runs downhill, he’s got good speed, he’s physical, he’s a complete back. He’s definitely challenging. Our guys know that and our staff [does too]. We’ve watched quite a bit of film of him together. I think his numbers speak for themselves what he’s been able to do already this year. He’s a big challenge. He’s a tough guy to bring down. … His numbers speak for themselves. Again, their style, what they do on offense, really fits him well. He’s the type of back they want in that offense. It’s a big challenge for us.”
» On if the Hogs’ offensive line is the most physical the Gators have faced this year: “Absolutely. Again, I think what they do offensively, that’s their style. The guys they have fit that. Those guys are going to line up in I-backs and get to it many different ways. They’ve got their set of run plays and they’re going to come downhill and run it and make you stop it. So far this year, no one has. That speaks for itself.”
» On the suddenly high-scoring offenses in the SEC this season: “There are some very talented quarterbacks and offenses this year in the SEC. I think it comes down to players all the time, that’s what the game comes down to. So if there’s been a swing with draft picks on [offense or defense], maybe that has something to do with it, too. I haven’t studied enough to know the exact answer to that, but I just know there are some very talented guys that we have faced and are going to face yet to come this year. … There’s also some offenses going more up-tempo now in our conference, which we really hadn’t seen much of that until this year. So that plays into it, as well, I think. There’s more plays being run, it’s the whole thing going on across the country and we’re seeing just probably just like everyone else.”
» On Kentucky’s fake field goal: “It was a good call by them. They caught us off guard getting lined up on it. We weren’t prepared for it. It was a good call by them. We didn’t have our eyes in the right place, and our guys weren’t lined up and ready. That was the biggest thing. We were so locked in on the tempo of the offense and we did a good job handling it. We got lined up fast and really didn’t have many snaps where their tempo got us, but they got us on tempo on the field goal. That’s another snap of defense. That’s how we have to handle it. On that play, our eyes weren’t right and we weren’t lined up and ready to play and all of a sudden, bam, they snapped the ball and caught us off guard. That can’t happen. Our guys need to learn from that.”