Gator Defense Prepares for Dynamic Offense

One mobile quarterback has already tested the Gators this season, and it didn't go well against USF's B.J. Daniels. When Kentucky utility man Randall Cobb takes snaps in the wildcat formation, Florida will have their second chance to stop a running quarterback.

B.J. Daniels ran the ball 17 times for 121 yards two weeks ago when the Bulls came to Gainesville. They ran read handoffs and options plays that found the Gators off guard.

"We didn't do a great job in that game," Teryl Austin said. "We've got to prepare for those things and be ready for those things. I'm sure we'll do a better job than last time."

USF didn't have a running back threat like the Wildcats do.

When Cobb takes snaps, Preseason First Team All-SEC running back Derrick Locke will be lined up next to him. Locke comes into Saturday's game as the leading rusher in the SEC, with five touchdowns and averaging 124 yards per game.

"They'll gap scheme you and zone block you," Austin said. "What makes them difficult is the speed of their back. They can run both and get outside on you."

Cobb is different because Florida will never know where he will be on the field. He will take snaps at quarterback and wide receiver, while also returning punts. The Wildcats use his versatility to play him all over the field.

Florida has used freshman wide receiver Solomon Patton to play Cobb's role on the scout team.

"That's one thing we're working on this week, putting him in all different positions," Austin said. "We want to make sure we account for those guys."

If Cobb and Locke are taken out of the equation, the three most productive receivers for Kentucky are at least 6-4. The Florida starting cornerbacks are 5-11 and 5-10, so even in the best matchup for the Gators, they still give up five inches.

"They have really big guys on the outside," Austin said. "I talked to the corners about playing big at the end of the play and attack the ball. It's like a big guy playing basketball. He's able to box you out and if he gets his hands on the ball, you're probably not going to get it. Our charge at corners is attacking the ball."

The 5-2 defensive set Florida used at Tennessee could be seen this weekend, but it's not as likely. Kentucky uses multiple spread offense formations, especially with Cobb in the game, and the 5-2 doesn't work against those.

The defensive line will get a boost as Lawrence Marsh is expected to play. Austin said his hamstring injury looks better, but the forearm injury he suffered last week is fine.

Adding another body to the inside could make it tempting to use the 5-2 on obvious running downs.

"The biggest thing is we've got our big bodies on the field," Austin said. "We can have our big guys play gaps, and our linebackers are ready to play."

Austin expects his defense to continue improving as sophomore middle linebacker Jon Bostic becomes more accustomed to leading. His leadership progress is described as "ongoing," but his play on the field has improved in each of the three games.

"He's a big thumper," Austin said. "When he hits you, he hits you. Our thing is, he's got to hit consistently."

The coaches like Bostic in the middle because of the presence he brings at the position. He doesn't have a dominating personality on the field like recent middle linebackers at Florida, but his play speaks for itself so far.

"Your MIKE linebacker has to be the guy," Austin said. "Obviously around here with the guys that have been here in (Brandon) Spikes and (Ryan) Stamper, the presence they brought as inside backers is really what drives your defense. You have to have those guys play well."
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