Gator Secondary Needs to Raise Its Game

The Florida defensive backfield is trying to improve significantly this week after a less than stellar performance against Tennessee. The Gators allowed Vols' quarterback Matt Simms to pass for 259 yards and two touchdowns in the Gators' 31-17 win in Knoxville. Of particular concern were two busted coverages that gave Tennessee a pair of easy scores.

Florida safeties coach Chuck Heater said the unit regressed last week.

"I think fundamentally we took a step backwards," Heater said. "I think we played well the first couple of weeks and we've been productive, but the big plays should never happen. We really tried to focus --- both safeties and corners --- on the fundamentals because if you break down back there big plays happen. We need to get that right."

Heater said the return of Will Hill last week added talent and depth to the unit, but it was clear Hill was not as his best after two weeks on the sidelines.

"You're behind a little bit (dealing with) the game speed, fatigue and all that," Heater said. "He's on a number of special teams as well so I think it was moving pretty good on him. Plus it was a little warm so that probably hurt him a little bit in terms of being able to get up to game speed. Now he has a week under his belt and he should be fine."

Heater said Kentucky will challenge Hill and the rest of the Florida secondary with a good collection of threats in the passing game led by All-SEC utility man Randall Cobb.

"He's a really, really good player and you'd love to have him," Heater acknowledged. "He's a pass catcher and they create a lot of situations for him to carry the ball. (They run) the screen game to him, the wildcat formation. They're going to make sure he touches the ball a significant number of times."

Cobb has already been involved in scoring touchdown four different ways this season as a receiver (2), runner, passer and punt returner. Heater says Cobb is a threat in all phases of the game and as a result he is a key for the Gators to focus on every play.

"We need to know where he is and how they utilizing him," Heater said. "We're very much aware of him. They have other good players as well at receiver, but he's the difference maker."

Among those other good players are 6-5 wide receivers Matt Roark (7-121) and Chris Matthews (7-114), 6-4 La'Rod King (9-108) and 6-4 tight end Jordan Aumiller (7-104). That's about as much height as you will ever see in a receiving corps at any level. Florida defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Teryl Austin is aware of the challenge that presents.

"They really do have some big guys on the outside," Austin said. "What is does to us, and what I talked to the corners specifically about is you have to play big at the end of the play. You've got to go up through thee guys and attack the ball. It's not going to be one of those (situations) where you wait ‘til they catch it and try to strip it because their arms are too long. It's like a big guy in basketball playing against a little guy. If he's able to box you out, you probably aren't going to get it."

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