With the Florida Gators in the middle of preparing for their first Southeastern Conference opponent of the 2011 season, a number of prominent players were made available to the media on Wednesday to discuss how the team is progressing heading into their showdown with the Tennessee Volunteers on Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. in The Swamp.
FLOYD’s RETURN A BONUS FOR PASS RUSHING
The Gators registered two sacks against Florida Atlantic but not a single one against a UAB team with an offence predicated on getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly. Junior linebacker Jon Bostic said the defense’s front seven is working hard this week to figure out how to improve their pass rush in any situation. “It’s no different from any other game. We got to get to the quarterback,” he said. “Last game they were getting the ball out quick, but we still got to figure out a way to get back there. The D-line still wants to get after it – they want to get their sacks.”
Hopefully helping Florida succeed in that task is sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd, who will be returning to the field after a two-game suspension. Bostic is confident that he will be able assist in the effort. “He’s going to help out a lot because he’s one of those big, strong guys that can change the line of scrimmage in still get to the quarterback,” he said.
Some might think Floyd will have extra motivation to play hard on Saturday, but Bostic says it has been business as usual for him this week. “He’s taking it the same way. He’s going out to practice, still working hard. He’s the same old Sharrif,” he said. “He comes out every day. You never have to tell him to go hard, run off the field, run on the field. He’s one of those guys who is always going to do what he need to do.”
JOB ONE: STOP THE RUN
In order to do that, Florida will key in on Tauren Poole, who has 45 carries for 199 yards with a touchdown over the first two games. Bostic described him as a “good back, physical, gets downhill, he’s real good between the tackles, so we got to contain him this week.” He said Tennessee’s offense is “old school” and “they’re going to run the ball and control the clock.”
JOB TWO: IF THAT FAILS, CONTAIN THE PASS
The Gators hope to be the first team to limit the Volunteers’ passing attack this season. Junior safety Josh Evans realizes Tennessee’s talented wideouts will present a challenge for Florida but thinks putting pressure on them from the get-go could do the trick. “We’re going to attack them early in the game and let them know that we’re confident in our DBs and they can play them man-to-man,” he said. “By actually getting after them, not letting them get anything on us – deep balls or any big plays during the game.”
That may be tough for a very young secondary that Evans admits has not been tested in game action yet. However, he believes covering his team’s receivers in practice has prepared them just fine. “Honestly these last couple days as far as practices went, we’re going against our guys and stuff, so that’s kind of been a test, going against them while getting ready for this game,” he said.
Going into the game, Evans thinks vision and personnel recognition are the two keys to the Gators’ succeeding. He also believes being conscious about the down and distance will help Florida know who to key-in on from a coverage standpoint and putting constant pressure on QB Tyler Bray will help as well.
Though the secondary may be the defensive unit that everyone is concentrating on heading into the contest, Evans does not feel that makes them any more important than the rest of the defense.
“I don’t feel like the pressure is on us. We’ve been playing pretty good as a unit. I feel like we’ve all been playing as good as a whole defense,” he said. “It’s up to everybody to do their jobs so we don’t put pressure on just the secondary. Everybody’s coming together as a team, even the D-line is going to give us the push up front to help the secondary.”
Evans spent some time Wednesday discussing how his teammates in the seconday have been performing both in practice and in game action this season.
» Freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson: “[His athleticism] can help him pretty good because he’s got good size and he also can jump. That’s one thing that helps him with taller receivers. He’s an athletic young guy and I think that he’s ready to D-up any receiver in the SEC.”
» Sophomore S Matt Elam: “The communication has been great lately. We’ve been communicating and helping out the linebackers and corners and putting them in the right spots. We took steps and steps as far as learning a whole new defense and everything. It was a big adjustment for us but now we’re starting to get the key vitals of it.”
» Sophomore CB Cody Riggs: “He’s a fast guy – a real fast guy. We know that they’re probably going to want to take shots due to his height, but I think he covers up pretty good. He’s a real aggressive guy. He’ll get hands on you and he likes to pres guys a little bit.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Evans on if he works more with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn or head coach Will Muschamp during the game: “it’s kind of equal, but Muschanmp kind of looks at the secondary as far as the safeties and stuff like that – so he gives us the adjustments. “
» Evans on if he prefers an intense or relaxed atmosphere before the game: “I think being able to relax is pretty good, but before the game everyone likes to pick up the tempo a little bit. By seeing the coaches relax a little bit, it makes you relax and makes it seem that while you’re getting ready for the game nobody is too tight. I say being relaxed and then up-tempo before the game, picking it up a little bit. [Muschamp]’s pretty high-tempo but that’s just him being enthused and being in the game and being a head coach, coaching the DBs and everything.”
» Bostic on how redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey has changed: “He definitely matured a lot, as a player, as a person, everything. As a player he’s still doing the same moves. We laugh at it on the sideline – one of the moves he put on the safety last week – because Matt gets the same move every time and bites it every time. We were laughing about that on the sideline. I’m glad he’s happy; he’s getting the ball like he wants to get it. I’ve gotten the same move, too. Sometimes when he puts that move, you act like he didn’t even get you and you just keep running up the field.”
» Thompson said he had his bell rung and did lose consciousness in the FAU game but did not suffer a concussion. He returned to practice a few days after the game and competed against UAB last week.
» Thompson on how Rainey is different this year: “Just all-around. He’s taken his game up to another level. From offseason all the way to now, he feels like he’s in high school again. He’s confident; he walks around confident and knows he can do it.”
» Thompson on if he expects to stretch the field against Tennessee: “No doubt. It’s SEC play. They feel like they got just as good as players as us, so they’ll come up jam us and challenge us to make the deep ball.”
» Thompson’s thoughts on freshmen Roberson and S De’Ante Saunders: “They’re both going to be a hell of a player. They’re good players. Roberson kind of reminds me of Janoris [Jenkins] his freshman year, when he first came in. Pop is great, got good ball skills. Both of those guys they’re good, great athletes.”
» Thompson on how Roberson is like Jenkins: “He’s good at the line of scrimmage. He’s a good jammer just like Janoris was.”
» Thompson on if he noticed New England’s offense was like Florida’s on Monday Night Football: “It is. Very interesting. I’m like, ‘Man, I know what they’re doing!’”