Florida hopes to find replacement for S Keanu Neal, D.J. Durkin talks Gators defensive players

By Adam Silverstein
November 6, 2014

Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Wednesday, a few days before his team travels to Nashville, Tennessee, to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. Durkin evaluated a number of players and discussed how the Gators can improve defensively before their next game.


With sophomore Keanu Neal sidelined for an unknown length of time due to a high-ankle sprain, Florida is searching for his replacement. Twice this week, coaches failed to name one player as Neal’s stand-in, instead choosing to discuss four different players that could line up to senior Jabari Gorman on Saturday.

“Keanu is a great football player; he has played really well for us. He’s productive, flies around and makes a lot of plays. Any time a guy goes down, it’s part of the game and the next guy has to step up and there can’t be a drop off in production. I think we’ll be fine,” said Durkin.

“Marcus Maye has played a bunch for us; Jabari Gorman played his best game since he has been here last week. Those guys combined with Marcell [Harris], Nick Washington and Duke Dawson, there’s a whole group of guys getting reps now and we’ll keep working them through the week to see where we’re at.”

Odds are that the Gators will roll with Maye, the redshirt sophomore, at safety, moving junior Brian Poole over to nickel cornerback. Poole played well at nickel against Georgia, and Maye (lined up at safety) made a big-time play on fourth down to save a touchdown in the end zone.

“It was great because we talk so much about finishing the play, finishing the tackle, finishing everything we do, and that’s a great example of finishing. That was a 50-50 ball that could’ve gone either way; either guy could have finished that play, and Marcus did. He finished it and got it out,” Durkin said. “So that was a big play in the game. I’m very proud of him for that, and it’s a great example for the rest of our team.”

Maye and Poole have both dealt with their share of eye control problems this season, and each player has been criticized for his consistency on occasion. However, Florida’s defensive backfield has played much better coming out of the Alabama contest, and the duo should help plug the hole left by Neal until he can eventually return.


» Junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.: “His consistency and how hard he plays and what he’s doing for us has definitely improved for us. He’s a guy we know we can count on every week. You know what you’re going to get from him. There’s times I think with anyone in the front, there’s weeks where you’ll be more productive than others based on the scheme or what a team is doing. Obviously, he’s a guy that everyone knows and has a plan for, but in terms of his effort and how he’s playing, even though there might be times where he didn’t make the play, he caused the play to be made by someone else. He’s got a lot of those plays for us. We’re very pleased with him and how he’s performed.”

» Sophomore linebacker Jarrad Davis: “He’s done really well with the snaps he’s gotten. I suppose it’s probably a good problem to have the linebacker position. We’ve got several guys that are playing really well there right now, so it’s a matter of making sure we’re getting all the guys enough reps because they’re earning it, they’re practicing really well and being productive on the field and so Jarrad had a handful of snaps in the pass game and was productive and we need to keep getting him more.”

» Sophomore LB Daniel McMillian: “I think D-Mac, his main thing is the spot he’s at right now, there’s some depth in front of him. I think he’s got a bright future here, he shows a lot of things and he’s continuing — one thing about him, he doesn’t get discouraged. He keeps practicing and going and going and he hasn’t got quite the playing time I know he would want, but it doesn’t show in his preparation in how he practices. He keeps going. He’ll be a really good player, but he’s buried on the depth chart a little by some guys who have playing experience.”

» Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jay-nard Bostwick: “Jay-nard, we just need to keep improving. He’s always up and ready, he’s in the mix to possibly get reps in the game but he’s kind of buried on the depth chart; he’s gotta move ahead of some guys. We need to get some more out of him in practice and some more consistency in his performance.”

» On freshmen in the front seven that were supposed to play a lot still not seeing a ton of action: “I think up front Caleb Brantley and Joey Ivey have been getting some reps in the 15-20 snaps a game. Some of those have been really good and promising and some of them we need to be better. We just talked about this a couple of days ago earlier in this week. We need them now. They’ve made really good strides and now we need them to take the next step and be where, if we need them to go play 50 snaps, they’d be able to do that. They’ve done well with what they’ve been given, but we need them fighting to get more snaps up front. And then, you know, in terms of linebacker position, I mean, Alex Anzalone is the only real guy in terms of redshirt freshman who’s had some snaps. He’s had limited snaps, probably more on special teams. He keeps coming along, but like I said, it’s probably a good problem – the guys that are playing are playing really well and, knock on wood, they’ve been able to stay healthy. Those snaps are hard to come by at the linebacker position. We’ve got a really good mix of guys right now that understand the team concept, they understand we’re playing a lot of guys – we’re playing over 20 guys in every game.

“They know they can make their opportunities. They can go out on the practice field and practice well and earn a spot and know that they’re going to get some time. However many snaps that is, we’ll see, but they’ll earn time in the game. I think we’re in a good spot with those guys. They’re all practicing well and getting better.”


» On how happy the defense was that the offense played well enough to extend drives and keep it off the field: “Any time defensively, when you can be on the side[line], get your rest, get your wind back and get to make adjustments and talk about it for a while, that helps. That was huge by our offense. They grinded it out and kept us off the field. Now it’s not such a hurry to make the adjustments you need to make from that series. You have time to talk through things and go through it. Guys get their wind back. The best thing to do for a defense is being on the sideline. You’re not getting any points scored on you then.”

» On whether the late touchdown given up to Georgia was frustrating: “Yes. I think a big message for our guys: no matter the situation, go through any scenario you want, we need to play the same way. It’s a certain standard of how we play. On that last drive, I feel we kind of were enjoying a victory already and the game was not over. Yeah, I wasn’t pleased with that and our guys know that and understand that and we’ll get better from it.”

Photo Credit: Adam Lau/Knoxville News-Sentinel


  1. Michael Jones says:

    One thing Will Muschamp can do is recruit DB’s. There should be plenty of talent in the fold. Hopefully it’s been developed for situations like this.

    Of course, with our unstoppable running attack, the defense won’t be on the field much anyway, right?

    • Oldflyer says:

      Right. That’s a good plan to win.

      • Michael Jones says:

        You know what they say, Oldflyer. Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Hopefully we won’t get punched in the mouth this Saturday night in Nashville.

        • gatorboi352 says:

          If we get punched in the mouth vs. Vanderbilt after the performance we put up against Georgia, Muschamp shouldn’t even get on the team plane back home

  2. Michael J. says:

    I’m waiting to see what team shows up in Knoxville. The one from the last game or the one from the game before that. It’s on the road, so even if Vandy is a bad team, hopefully the players realize that they have no reason to be overconfident. Consistency is the key, I’ll feel better if I see a good performance for a second straight game.

  3. ConnGator says:

    “The best thing to do for a defense is being on the sideline. You’re not getting any points scored on you then.”

    Unless you are playing Missouri.

  4. like rm says:

    Adam, Where should I look to buy tickets for the vandy game?

  5. 1974Gator says:

    What!? “However, Florida’s defensive backfield has played much better coming out of the Kentucky contest, and the duo should help plug the hole left by Neal until he can eventually return.”
    Is somebody dreaming? I recall multiple blown coverages by our dbs against Bama, LSU and Mizzou. My perception is that Georgia was the first mistake free game for our DBS since beginning SEC play.

  6. G2 says:

    Adam, any idea where you can watch a replay of the Ga game? Doesn’t seem to be on YouTube yet.

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