Gators to Face Improving Georgia Defense

Film study on the Georgia defense is tougher than usual this year. After losing four of their first five games this season, the Bulldogs defense looked lost. Their new 3-4 defense seemed to create more problems than fix the struggling unit from last season. Before the Tennessee game over two weeks ago, something clicked.

"From the beginning of the season to now, they're night and day," Florida offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert said. "It's completely different. They're more energetic and fly to the ball.

"Their demeanor has changed. I don't know what it is or what happened, but it happened. They're similar to the LSU defense, physical and fast."

Outside linebacker Justin Houston leads a Georgia defense that loves to create pressure on the quarterback. Houston leads the SEC with 8.5 sacks this season and ranks second in the conference with 12 tackles for loss.

That spells trouble for the Florida offense that has struggled to stop a pass rush. Opposing defenses seem to blitz more often than not against an offensive line that isn't protecting to its capabilities. The running backs have also struggled to pick up the correct blitzer.

Communication is key. They must get the calls throughout the offensive line, and the unit must react instead of over thinking.

"We worked on the fundamentals and wanted to make a commitment to the team," Gilbert said. "If we go hard and give it all we've got, we'll have a better chance of winning. As we go, the team will go. We did a better job in taking a step in a leadership role."

Head coach Urban Meyer said Monday that the offensive troubles come down to a lack of execution. Gilbert has seen his teammates take that to heart, and they worked hard on it last week. The competitiveness wasn't at levels of recent years since Meyer got to Gainesville, but an improved week of practice is what Gilbert believes will help turn the offense around.

"The play calls and everything are fine," Gilbert said. "They're the best plays for us. We just have to execute them. It's not the coaches or the plays. It's on us, and we're not getting the job done."

Injuries to the offense have created holes that aren't easily filled by backups. The offensive line has been shuffled to get the best five on the field, but the production has lacked because players aren't used to their positions. Skill players getting hurt have added to the mix, creating an offense without an identity.

"People being out and trying to play different positions because someone is injured," Gilbert said about the offensive struggles. "Overall, we should be able to make all the plays and execute them well."

The offense could receive a boost if Chris Rainey returns this weekend. Coach Meyer said he is eligible to play as long as he lives up to their expectations.

He has lined up at running back and wide receiver in practice. His versatility would give the Gators a home run threat on offense that they are still searching to find.

"He's very explosive," Gilbert said. "Like a Percy-type, he's going to bring a lot of explosiveness to the offense with big plays. He's so much more mature now at practice. I feel bad for him because Chris loves this game. Him being suspended, it kind of hurt me to see him walking around campus with his hoodie on. He's going to take full advantage of this chance.

"When he came back to practice last week, he was happy. It was like Christmas for him."
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