"All throughout two-a-days and this summer, that was one emphasis we wanted to make," Jon Bostic said. "We want to stop the run. We want to be one of the most physical defenses in the country."
Bostic leads the team with 16 tackles while Jelani Jenkins and Matt Elam are behind him with 13. The two linebackers have been influential in the run defense, but it wouldn't be this effective without the defensive line.
The penetration created by Jaye Howard and Dominique Easley on the line has the offensive line forced to double team one of them. When that happens and they command as many blockers as possible, it opens up holes for the linebackers to slide in and stuff the run in the backfield.
That's if the defensive linemen don't break through the double teams and stop the play themselves.
"It helps us out a lot," Bostic said of the Florida defensive line. "With them taking on double teams and holding the offensive linemen off us, it allows us to come in freely."
Despite the statistics, Bostic still feels the Florida defense made "a lot of mistakes" in Saturday's 33-23 win over Tennessee. Head coach Will Muschamp pointed to the same thing after watching the film. It was a win, but there were still plenty of teaching point.
It's a constant reminder to the defense of how good the unit can be. The athleticism isn't a question. However, in the team's first year of running Muschamp and Dan Quinn's 3-4 scheme, there are still hurdles to overcome. The defense has played well to open this season, but Bostic feels like the unit's best days are still to come.
"As long as we're all locked in on our assignments, we can do really whatever we want to do," Bostic said.
Bostic and Jenkins have led the Florida linebackers this season, and a lot of that has to do with the connection they have on the field. They were both thrown into the fire last season without much playing experience, and they developed the ability to communicate in only a matter of games.
The defense has hand signals for different checks depending on what the offense does, but the two have a different way of communicating. Sometimes it's just a look or nod, but it didn't take Bostic long to realize they knew what each other was thinking on the field.
"Most of the calls are universal, but there are just things that we have between each other to look for one play," Bostic said.
Jenkins has been all over the field for the Gators this season. Besides ranking second on the team in tackles, Jenkins has also recorded a sack, four breakups and one quarterback hurry.
"He just has a second sense for certain plays and when it's going to come," Bostic said. "He broke on two of those out routes that he could've taken for touchdowns. He's just got to make the play."
Lerentee McCray has filled out the starting group of linebackers for the Gators. McCray leads the team with 3.5 tackles for loss and has been in the backfield at will.
"He's a guy that can put is hand down and rush the passer or stand up and play pass coverage as a SAM linebacker," Bostic said. "As a physical standpoint, that's where we've seen Lerentee come on. He's a guy that can come down and hit a fullback in the mouth and make a fullback not even want to come at him anymore."