D-Line Steps Up, Wary of Kentucky

The Florida defensive line showed off their big package on Saturday. Much to the dismay of the Tennessee Volunteers, the Gators used a five defensive linemen front in order to help stop the run and was very effective against the Vols. This week it looks to be different with a Kentucky offense built more for speed and the Gators should be ready.

Florida went 'heavy' against Tennessee, a team they weren't very afraid of throwing the ball, but really concerned when it came to running it. The big offensive line for Tennessee had run the ball well enough to be the second ranked rushing offense in the SEC and also had the league's top ranked running back coming into the contest.

The Gators schemed the Vols with an extra defensive lineman on the field, essentially adding a third defensive tackle. The result was the Gators limiting the Vols to just 29 rushing yards total and the Vols leading ground gainer, Tauren Poole, to just 23 yards on the day.

The interesting caveat is the Gator defense also recorded six sacks on the day, a tribute to the pressure that Florida put on Volunteer quarterback Matt Simms all day.

"We had a lot of pressure the week before (against USF) and we wanted to turn those pressures into sacks," Gator defensive line coach Dan McCarney said Tuesday when asked about the play of his line. "Frankly, when you watched the tape we felt like we should have had nine or 10 sacks. It shows the ability and potential of the top end of our defense right now."

McCarney was quite pleasantly surprised at the way the defense was able to corral Poole all day who finished with the 23 yards on 10 carries.

"I didn't think we could (slow him that much) either," McCarney said. "We wanted to keep him from getting long runs and big plays and obviously we did that. Like always if you put a good scheme together, it's how well you execute it on game day. Evidently the kids did a phenomenal job of executing it."

That scheme called for defensive end Duke Lemmens to play a lot of SAM linebacker, for Jaye Howard to move from defensive tackle to defensive end, and for Terron Sanders to be inserted in as a fifth lineman and at defensive tackle. Essentially you have five defensive linemen across covering all the gaps in the line with big stout bodies.

"We call it our 'Heavy' package," McCarney said. "Each week you do what you think is best to slow down and try and win football games. That is what we felt like we needed to do. Both Jaye and Duke have the ability, coachability, and IQ to make moves like that, play different positions, and still be effective."

Duke Lemmens seemed to be everywhere on Saturday and for good reason. McCarney says he can line up in three different positions on the field right now. Once thought of as a weak link on the Gator defense, Lemmens is starting to make believers out of doubters.

"Duke was our MVP," McCarney said reiterating head coach Urban Meyer's announcement Monday that Lemmens was the most valuable player on defense for the Tennessee game. "The neat thing about him is he isn't only out there playing SAM linebacker, he still gets about 20 snaps playing nose guard when we go with our three down package. He's a joy to coach and no one is having more fun and playing better defense than Duke Lemmens."

Look for the 'Heavy' package to show up somewhere down the line. Most people are pointing to that Alabama game in two weeks, but McCarney wouldn't be that specific.

"We'll have it ready each week and it's down to what Coach Austin feels we need to utilize in a game or what we feature," McCarney said.

The ends in the game were really getting up field and making things happen for the Gator defense. McCarney said he wants to see more of it as the season passes.

"We have to keep that going and build on it," he said. "We had nine big plays on the defensive line and those are the things we are looking for. It may not have been a sack but it could be a real big disruptor or big pressure on third down that may have led to a turnover or a third down stop."

One young guy making a move is Ronald Powell. The true freshman from Southern California came to Florida as the No. 2 prospect in the entire country for the 2010 class according to Scout.com. After getting his ears wet, Powell has really made big strides and recorded his first sack of the year to go along with several plays where he provided extensive heat to the Tennessee backfield and played some of the SAM backer position that Lemmens played.

"(He's come) a long ways, especially in the last two weeks," McCarney said pf Powell. "The transition is major from high school to the SEC. I am thrilled with him, ecstatic with the improvement he's made. He's really figuring out the system, how hard you have to play, and the fundamentals you have to play with to give yourself a chance to be successful. You will continue to see he, Sharrif Floyd, and Dominique Easley...those three are deserving and earning more playing time."

Powell showed he can play standing up or with his hand on the ground as a pure pass rusher.

"He's real versatile," McCarney said of Powell. "He can put his hand down and now we have him playing up now in a two point stance. He's almost 250 pounds...not like he's an undersized guy and also one of the strongest guys on the team as a true freshman."

The middle of the defensive line did their part as well. Florida played six defensive tackles in the game and the rotation helped the defense provide a constant push up the middle.

"We have to get push," McCarney said. "It was good to see Brandon Antwine and Sharrif Floyd get involved in sacks. We have a lot of push and are always trying to get great push and get in the quarterback's face."

Sophomore Omar Hunter started all year in 2009 as the nose guard and played respectable. With the help Hunter is getting, McCarney says he has stepped up his game a bit.

"I am real pleased with him," McCarney said of Hunter. "We have a lot of guys rotating in there and I think this is the freshest he has felt given that we are already in the fourth game of the season."

The Gators have another big task this week, albeit a little different. Kentucky comes to the Swamp as the SEC's third best rushing team and has the league's best rusher in Derrick Locke, who is averaging 124 yards a game on the ground.

"It still all starts and stops with stopping the run and that is what we have to do this week with a better offense and a more explosive offense, a faster running back and a tremendous scheme," McCarney said of the Wildcats.

"Their rushing attack is very real. When you put 10.6 back there along with the schemes they have, it poses a great challenge for us.

"You have to be a lot more alert for what he can do once (Locke) gets to the edge. You see in our offense what Demps can do when you give him the corner. Very much the same with Locke. He has tremendous speed. We know what he runs on the track, but he is one of those guys that carries it over to the football field."

The Wildcats' offense can be scary. Along with Locke, who is the third ranked all-purpose runner in the SEC, Randall Cobb is a threat to run, pass, catch, and do just about anything with the ball. Cobb is currently ranked just behind Locke at fourth in the SEC in all-purpose running.

"He has speed, toughness, and jumping ability," McCarney said of Cobb. "He's dangerous no matter where he lines up ...receiver, quarterback, or wherever he's up. He will make a great living on Sundays, we just don't want him to make a great living here Saturday."

There is no let down for this game as the Alabama game looms the following week. Because of the threats above, Kentucky is paramount in this team's eyes.

"Our sights and focus (are all on) Kentucky," McCarney said. "We know what they've done in these first three games and they are undefeated like we are. We don't want them to come in here and spoil our Saturday night. We are going to do everything we can to get our fourth win."
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