Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Wednesday ahead of the eighth game of the season against the Georgia Bulldogs on Nov. 2.
Missouri embarrassed one of the nation’s top defenses two weeks ago, racking up 500 yards of total offense while playing with a quarterback who was making his first career start. The Tigers ran the ball down the Gators’ throats and shredded Florida’s secondary. Suffice to say, the players and coaches were sufficiently ashamed.
“There was obviously things we could’ve done much better in that game,” Durkin said. “We just need to handle [adversity], if that happens to us, bounce back quicker. We’re going to get hit on a play here and there, especially if you’re playing receivers like they got. Credit to them. A lot of 50-50 balls, they went up and made the play.
“We just gotta line back up and go play. I think at some point we didn’t react the way we need to on defense. That’s something that hasn’t happened with our group and obviously we hope it doesn’t happen again. … It was something our guys are not used to, and quite frankly, we don’t want them to be used to it.”
As disappointed as he was in UF’s performance two Saturdays ago, Durkin is confident that Florida will not put up a similar dreadful performance against Georgia this weekend.
“The way our guys practice, the way they prepare, the guys we’re coaching. I think we got guys with great character and guys that are really good football players. Their response this past two weeks with how they’re practicing and preparing tells me they’re ready to move on and they know what it takes and what they need to do,” he said.
Redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor is one of those players, and he was just as adamant as his coach that things would be different this time around.
“That’s not characteristic of us. That’s not what we allow. That’s a one-time thing. I can guarantee you this: that won’t happen again,” he said. “Last week was inexcusable.”
Taylor is as passionate a football player as the Gators have on their roster, and he displays a tough-as-nails attitude often when presented with unpleasant topics such as how he has never beaten the Bulldogs as an active player at Florida.
This particular game hits home for him.
“Even my mom will tell me, because she lives in Atlanta, she’ll tell me, ‘Y’all got to be them this year because I don’t want to have to hear about it from my supervisors because all my supervisors went to Georgia.’ I have even more motivation to win this game so my mom don’t have to hear about it for the next 365 days,” he explained on Wednesday.
The 2012 loss to UGA is particularly bothersome for Taylor, who believes UF needs to send back a taste of the medicine it has been forced to swallow the last two years.
“That was the one loss, granted before Louisville, that was the one loss that separated us from going to the SEC Championship even getting a chance to play in the national championship. That’s the one thing that stood between us and all those goals. We owe them some payback, so Saturday will be interesting.”
Florida’s coaches have been pleased with the play of freshman LB Jarrad Davis on special teams, so much so that he was actually named a captain against Mizzou and saw more action on defense than he had in the previous six games put together. His role is only expected to increase going forward.
“Jarrad has done a great job with the snaps he’s had on special teams. He hasn’t had a ton on defense leading up to that, but on special teams he’s been an elite performer playing in all phases,” Durkin said. “He’s got a great career, a bright future ahead of him. He’s learning the defense better and better and doing better in practice. He’ll continue to play more on defense.”
Taylor concurred with his coordinator.
“[Davis] is good. He will hit you. He can cover. He can do all of the above. I really like Jarrad; I know the coaches really do, too,” he said. “He’s good now. I don’t like when people say he’s going to be good. He’s good now. So just keep watching him. That’s all I’m going to say.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Durkin on how redshirt junior LB Ronald Powell (ankle) has looked in practice: “He’s getting better and better. I think he’ll be fine. He’ll be good to go. Ronald’s a guy, he’s dealt with injuries before. He always handles them really well in terms of he works really hard at it. He’s getting treatment and doing everything he’s supposed to do to get healthy. He’s done that, and I think he’ll be fine.”
» Taylor on whether Florida will target Georgia running back Todd Gurley’s ankle: “It’s not in the back of my mind. I’m not going to try and grab his ankles. I’m going to hit him right in the chest like you want to hit everybody. It’s good that they’ll have him back because that means we’ll face probably the three best backs in the conference and in college football. This will be a good challenge for us and it’ll even just add to the element of the game, knowing they have that guy back. I knew he was going to come back anyway. With him sitting out all them games, he wasn’t going to miss this one.”