Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics concerning his unit including how it is preparing for the upcoming road game against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday at 6 p.m. A handful of Florida players spoke on Tuesday about LSU and their teammates.
YEAH, YEAH, YEAH
When head coach Will Muschamp hired Jeff Dillman as the team’s new strength and conditioning coach, he cited Dillman’s similar mindset and personality as two reasons why he felt that it would be a perfect fit. Just a handful of games into the 2012 season, it is looking like Muschamp made a superb hire, especially when one considers how similar the two men are in their persona and work ethic.
“Both high-energy, a lot of passion for what they do. They both bring it every day,” Quinn said.
Junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins, whose improved play has been a revelation for the Gators, said Wednesday that Dillman has done wonders for the players’ focus.
“[Dillman’s changed] our mentality as football players,” he said. “He coached us to be more physical in everything we do and before we had a lot of speed, so that’s pretty much what we worked on a lot.”
Muschamp has been preaching physicality since he arrived at UF, but he has also been known for his consistent high energy, another characteristic that Dillman shares.
“He’s always like that and that’s the best thing about him,” Watkins said of Muschamp. “He’s always genuine with us. It feels good to know your coach is right there with you celebrating.”
IT’S A TEAM EFFORT
Florida’s entire defense, a unit ranked eighth nationally one year ago, has still managed to take a big leap in season two, one which Quinn believes is fueled by the physicality that the players exhibit in each and every game.
“I thought we played with real toughness at the line of scrimmage. It was an area of emphasis for us for the game,” he said of the Gators’ effort on Saturday. “When we talk about that [with] that group, they have pride in how they do it. So I wasn’t surprised in that way and how they performed on the line.”
He also thinks it helps that the defense plays together as a unit instead of individual players trying to stand out by making highlight plays. “I think the best player on our defense is our defense,” Quinn added. “We don’t need one guy to feel like, ‘Man, if he doesn’t do it, we’re not going to be able to make it.’ We have a number of guys that we feel can make plays on our defense. I think that’s good.”
Muschamp estimated on Monday that Florida has only missed seven total tackles over its last three games, an impressive stat considering some teams have whiffed on as many as 20 in a single contest this season. Watkins explained Wednesday why that has been the case for the Gators.
“Our mental approach,” he said. “Last year, I don’t think we took tackling as seriously. We didn’t really realize how much a missed tackle can hurt the game. This year when we’re doing the tackling drills, we actually lock in and take it serious.”
Florida has also greatly reduced its discipline penalties, an area that really killed the team early in the season. Quinn discussed how the Gators have succeeded in making such a vast improvement in that category.
“Yeah, we have cut down on that. [Knocks on wood] It’s something – you get what you emphasize. It’s something that has been a big emphasis for us, and we just stay consistent in terms of message,” he said. “We have the officials at practice. They throw the flag. Each day at practice we try to create as many game-like situations as we can to let them know that you can’t line-up offsides, you can’t jump, illegal contact or whatever the penalty might have been.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Quinn on how to defend a mobile quarterback: “Certainly it’s a challenge when you play a mobile QB in terms of the different things that they can do. Not only do they have a mobile QB, they also have a quarterback running game package where there’s some direct quarterback runs and those kind of things. You have to do a really good job setting the edges because sometimes when you face a guy that has the speed to get outside, he’ll break contain and try to create a play that way.”
» Quinn on sophomore CB Loucheiz Purifoy: “He adds a lot to our team, even form a special teams standpoint the way he can cover. […] He was certainly one guy we highlighted in terms of the way he played on teams. He does carry a lot for us.”
» Quinn on if redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins will be able to play on Saturday: “We’re pushing Jelani as hard as we can to get him ready to play. We certainly need him to. We’re taking it day-by-day. We’re hoping to have Jelani available for us.”
» Watkins on Florida playing with swagger and intimidation: “Last year, I feel like teams tried to do that to us more. This whole summer we thought about that and it’s always in the back of our hands that we won’t be the ones to be intimidated this year.”
» Watkins on which players help energize and motivate the defense: “Matt Elam. He brings a different type of energy to the defense. If he’s down, I feel like the whole defense will be down. But when he’s up and he’s going, everybody will play around him. And Lerentee McCray, too. He and Matt Elam kind of have the same personality – that bad boy persona on- and off-the-field. And it works for them on the field. [Dominique] Easley is in his own category.”
» Senior linebacker Jon Bostic on his celebration penalty: “It was just really exciting for Matt to come up and set the tempo. I didn’t think it was too much, but I guess the ref did. That was a big play for us. We really saw that as one of those setting-the-tempo type plays.”
» Redshirt senior guard James Wilson on coming back to be a major part of the offensive line: “There was a little bit of doubt, but if there was any more doubt than that I would have hung up my pads. Scout team last year was pretty low. That didn’t feel good. We got a whole new change of offensive coaches and they saw what I could do. I’ll just say that these coaches believe in me more than coaches of the past.”