No. 10/11 Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics concerning his unit including its personnel as well as how it is preparing for Saturday’s game against the No. 4/3 LSU Tigers.
IT CAN ALWAYS GET BETTER
Florida may be rolling into Saturday’s showdown ranked No. 17 nationally in total defense (305.00 yards per game) and No. 10 in scoring defense (12.75 points per game), but the team is bested by LSU in both categories (fourth at 217.80 YPG and ninth at 12.60 points per game, respectively).
As far as Quinn is concerned, the Gators have plenty of room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball. And on Wednesday he detailed the areas in which he thinks the unit can improve.
“From a coverage standpoint, I think there’s been some good matchups in terms of how the guys are playing routes and that way. From a communications standpoint on the back end, we would like to still see that improve where you play some no-huddle teams that move fast and that type of thing,” he explained. “In the run game, I’d like to see that area squared up at the line of scrimmage where we just didn’t maybe fit a run exactly like we needed to. And then the final phase for our area of improvement is getting the ball back.”
Florida’s 1.25 turnover margin (seven gained, two lost) is 18th best nationally. UF being able to take the ball away from LSU, which has coughed up the ball eight times already this season, could go a long way in helping fuel the upset.
THUMBS UP AT LINEBACKER
As head coach Will Muschamp announced during the weekly SEC teleconference on Wednesday, redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins returned to practice and has been cleared for game action on Saturday. Quinn said that Jenkins is already relatively comfortable with the cast he is wearing on his thumb (some of his other fingers are free) and is once again bringing experience and talent to the defense.
“I think the more they have it on, you kind of get used to it. It might be harder the first time you go out and practice. I think he would absolutely take it over not playing, so it’s good to have him back,” he said. “Through practice this week I’ve been pleased with what we’ve seen from him.”
Jenkins returning to the lineup means that linebackers redshirt sophomore Michael Taylor and freshman Antonio Morrison will see fewer reps than they have been used to over the last two-plus games. Quinn is still confident that they will be able to contribute plenty this week.
“With the other guys who backed him up, I really have a lot of trust in those guys, in Mike an Antonio. In that way, no differentiation for us with whose in the game,” he said. “I think what Jelani adds in experience and playmaking ability, he adds value for us and we certainly need to get him in there. But we’ll certainly still play Mike and Antonio in the ball game.”
STEPPING UP AT THE RIGHT TIME
Redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter claimed on Tuesday that winning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week following the Kentucky game was not a big deal for him. However, the award was indicative of the vast improvement he has made this season, going from underperforming reserve to the fourth-leading tackler on the team. Quinn said Wednesday that Hunter’s improved strength and pop off the ball has made a major difference this season.
“His practice preparation leading up into Kentucky, into the bye week and going into LSU week – he’s been really practicing well. His pad level, his hand placement, all the things you’re looking for in a defensive tackle he’s been doing in practice. And that’s why, for him, it’s carried over into the game,” he noted.