Dan Quinn Talks Schemes and Personnel

The Florida Gators will no doubt be different on defense in 2011 than they were in 2010, but the base of the defense remains the same. Florida will still utilize a four-man front with three linebackers, but will also make it a point to confuse offensew by giving them multiple looks and playing with three linemen. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn wants to be multiple on defense, just like his boss.

There has been a lot of talk about just how the defense at Florida might change under head coach Will Muschamp and his defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The misconception has been that the two prefer a three-down linemen look and that probably stems from their time coaching under Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

Truth be told, the two are very comfortable coaching both, but will mostly utilize the personnel that the Gators have on roster. As a matter of fact, they love the challenge that multiple looks present the offenses they will face.

Quinn talked about the first time he realized just what it meant for an offense to be faced with having to stop a multiple defense.

"There was one conversation that hit me back when I was at the Miami Dolphins and we had just hired Mike Mularkey as the offensive coordinator and I can distinctly remember Nick [Saban] asking him, ‘What do you think is harder to prepare for, 4-3 or 3-4?'", Quinn told the media on Monday at an early evening press conference. "And out of Mike's mouth, he said, ‘Both'.

"That was the system we had run during our time at Miami and it was that conversation that resonated; that if you have the opportunity to do both, I really thought it could create problems in matchups for an offense. We did that some in Seattle, and of course we did it in Miami and of course Will did it at Texas. I do think the ability to have both is there. We will be a 4-3 team that has some 3-4 principles.

The different looks of the defense can become even more complicated when the defense doesn't have to rotate personnel. If you can flash a 4-3 front and then switch to a 3-4 without pulling the personnel from the field, you create issues with blocking schemes and protection schemes for the offense. The plan is to create these mismatches by shifting the personnel instead of switching them out. The same can be said when they want to change up the play in the secondary.

"Most of the time it's to keep the same personnel on the field and have different looks and it also happens some in nickel, like 11 personnel and that kind of stuff some of it comes in our nickel package where we are covering both the tackle and the nose," Quinn said. "If we got into a short yardage or goal line or big heavy run emphasis, we have some packages where we would add some big guys to the field."

Quinn gave us an idea of just what he is looking for up front when the Gators are recruiting defensive linemen.

"I think inside there have been certain guys that we have coached over the years that are strong and heavy handed and Bryant Young was a guy that played a nose and a three," Quinn said. "Good players can play in any system. We are looking for outside rushers who have speed and length and some of those guys when they grow into a five-technique or big defensive tackle, the guy coming out might be 6-4 or 6-5 and 245, 250 pounds and grow into a 275, 280-pound defensive end.

"As far as the nose tackles, some of those guys, to me, it's more about getting your hands on guys and playing technique, and being it's part of our package not the mainstay, we'll be able to do it with the group we have."

Getting a pass rush is vital and Quinn is as big on teaching his guys through technique to be quality pass rushers as he is relying on bringing a blitzing linebacker or someone else from the secondary. He likes doing a little of both.

"There are certain games when you want to just rush with four and there are some advantages in term of playing split safety defenses, and other times you want to match up and play man to man outside and then have the ability to bring a fifth or sixth rusher whether it be man to man or zone," he said. "Are we a blitz team or four man rush team? I would say somewhere in the middle. I think when you saw the games that we really affected the quarterback; I would say there would be a balance of that."

Inevitably Quinn is a pressure guy. He will try and bring the heat. As long as his secondary can play man on the opponent, he will try and bring as many people to the ball as he can.

"I think we would be more man to man oriented first," he said. "There's certainly going to be some times where we will play some two deep and split safety defenses just to match up for receivers and that kind of stuff. We want to certainly take away what they do best, but when you see our guys run outside, it certainly lends itself to playing some man to man."

One reason to run multiple looks without changing personnel is lack of depth at some positions. Muschamp said earlier in the interview session that lack of numbers on the defensive line is a concern. Quinn will just have to make sure his guys learn multiple positions.

"I think that we will be doing that," he said. "We are going to have guys play more than one position. I really think it adds value to your team when a guy can play a little bit of linebacker and some defensive end or defensive tackle and nose tackle. And really that's something that I'll be bringing with me that we have done in the last ten years in the NFL where a guy can play more than one position. I really think it adds value to the team and it certainly adds value to the player, as well.

"I think we are going to cross train the guys at a lot of spots. Some of the linebackers are also going to play defensive end and we'll find the best way to use the guys. That's what is really important for us going through spring practice is evaluating the players. We have seen them on tape and been through spring workouts and that kind of stuff, but now that you get to cross train guys at different spots, what is the best place to play this player in nickel; what role can he play for us in short yardage. So I think in this spring practice, that's going to be an important part is evaluating the guys and see what they do best and let's find a role for them to do.

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