Defense Practice Effort Improved

When the current coaching staff got to Gainesville, practice effort was one of the first areas they worked on with the defense. It wasn't about laziness or purposely doing things the wrong way. The issues stemmed from a young team that wasn't sure how to work as hard as the staff wanted them to. It didn't take long to learn, and the practice effort has helped the defensive side of the ball.

"I think with all the guys, it's just more experiencing it and probably growing up a little bit, too," Dan Quinn said. "The more exposures they get, the more they play, the more experience, and then the other thing is just having your other teammates count on you now that you're in a role. I think that's an important thing that can't be overlooked. Like, ‘I'm not going to let my other guys down here.' I'm going to do it right and be on top of things."

Quinn singled out a few players for their improved practice effort over the last year. Junior Sharrif Floyd made an impact during his freshman year, but when Will Muschamp and the rest of the coaching staff showed up in Gainesville, Floyd took his practice effort to another level.

The transition to working with Quinn was a big part of it. Floyd has spoken multiples times since the new coaching staff took over about the trust he has in Quinn with his background in the NFL.

"You can really see the intensity that he brings to practice from an everyday standpoint," Quinn said of Floyd. "I don't know if I wasn't pleased with him, but you can really see his experienced and his intensity has really picked up."

Improved practice effort has also sparked a strong senior season for Omar Hunter, who was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his eight-tackle performance against Kentucky. Quinn also complimented Loucheiz Purifoy's practice intensity after Muschamp said on Monday that he was happy with the sophomore's tackling ability.

The change in practice effort that stood out the most to Quinn on the defensive side of the ball is linebacker Michael Taylor. His time on the field is increasing and Taylor is now seventh on the team in tackles without being a starter. He added an interception against the Wildcats on Saturday.

"Taylor would be another one in my mind. He's practicing better and better in communication, better in the calls. I thought he's done a good job in terms of as his role is increasing and done a better job moving forward."

When linebacker Jelani Jenkins went down with a broken thumb against Texas A&M Taylor and freshman Antonio Morrison split time at linebacker. As was the case in 2011, Taylor has done nothing but makes plays since earning a bigger role.

"When he gets in, he does a good job," Quinn said. "With Jelani being injured, his reps have increased. I think it also goes back to he knows we're counting on him and his teammates know that, too. I think when you have that going for you, it does have a factor in the way you prepare and practice and play."

INCREASED TURNOVERS: The three turnovers forced against Kentucky served as the first time the Florida defense forced three in a game since the current staff took over before the 2011 season. The emphasis has always been on turnovers, but the defensive staff is starting to see signs that they'll come at a quicker rate.

"They've done a terrific job getting their hands on a lot of balls," Quinn said. "That's something we keep track of each week. For us, it's been a product of that. We've had some opportunities where maybe we've missed some interceptions in the early games this year. For us to convert on some of those in the ball game and get in the end zone as a defense, it was an important step for us."

The offseason was spent harping on the lack of turnovers. The defense heard all the statistics about how good the defense was on paper, but there was one area that was left without much production. The Gators needed to take the ball away more often.

"I think it's more just a conscience effort in terms of the guys going after the football," Quinn said. "The second man in or as a rusher, affecting the quarterback to give the guys an opportunity to go and get it. It's something we're going to emphasize hard. Not where we need to be yet, but something we're making strides in."


Fightin Gators Top Stories