Mid-Season Report Card: Defense and ST's

We continue on with our grading of the Florida football team at the midpoint of the year and now on to defense and special teams. Florida's defense has been stellar for most of the second halves of every game, but like the offense have had a few games where it has taken some time to get going. Special Teams has components that are truly special.

DEFENSE

Defensive Line: Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd, Omar Hunter, Lerentee McCray, Dante Fowler, Leon Orr, Damien Jacobs, Earl Okine, Jonathan Bullard (Grade: B+)

I contend that the defensive line has gotten great pressure whenever there is a drop back quarterback as the opposition. There hasn't been too many and they haven't collected that many sacks, but they constantly get pressure from guys who sit in the pocket.


Fowler has been big for UF at times

I listed nine players above and all nine have seen some playing time in crucial situations meaning the depth is getting lots of work. After a first half at Texas A&M where some of these guys free-lanced a lot, they buckled down, carried out their assignments and the defense started to roll from that point on and have been pretty tough on the running game as well.

Needs Improvement : McCray may be the guy that is most consistent of the group. His motor always seems to run. Most, if not all the others disappear at times. I also would like to see more in particular from Damien Jacobs, he is a backup we were expecting a lot from coming out of preseason and he hasn't done a lot. The freshmen are doing great and at times have each provided some kind of spark.

Linebackers; Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins, Neiron Ball, Michael Taylor, Antonio Morrison, Darrin Kitchens (Grade: B)

While the defensive line has settled down and started playing their gaps much better than a year ago, the linebackers for the most part have filled the holes they are supposed to in the run game. The missed tackles in the last four games have been few and far between and a lot of that is from great play from the linebackers.

Jon Bostic leads the way and is having his best year as a Gator. He leads the position in tackles, leads the team in tackles for loss and quarterback hurries, and has a forced fumble. Freshman Antonio Morrison may be playing the second best on the list and is currently fourth on the team in tackles as he has substituted for the injured Jenkins.


Bostic is having his best year

Ball is just starting to get his feet under him after being out all of last season and should start to emerge when they play a SAM linebacker on the field. Taylor is a hard hitter that missed quite a few tackles early in the year but has come on strong.

Needs Improvement: The older guys could learn from Morrison when it comes to hitting. It seems a little more fun when he and Taylor are on the field as they fly around wherever the ball carrier is. These guys need to start thumping on the ball carriers. Getting Jenkins back will help with the depth that was hurting for a game or two.

Secondary: Matt Elam, Josh Evans, Marcus Roberson, Jaylen Watkins, Loucheiz Purifoy, Valdez Showers, Jabari Gorman, Jeremy Brown, Brian Poole (Grade; A)

I think josh Evans is the most underrated player on the team. He caught a lot of grief for missing Johnny Manzeil on a tackle in the TAMU game, and then getting laid out by a running back, but the fact is, nobody on the defense has consistently hit harder than Evans all season long. We have seen him make half a dozen shoe string tackles as well that have saved long plays.

Matt Elam is my pick for the best player on the team and if allowed to play in the box all game we would probably see a lot more games from him like we did against LSU. He can take over a game from his spot on the field.

Valdez Showers and Jabari Gorman have both provided some very positive minutes in reserve for the Gators at each safety position.

It is a real toss up at cornerback for the three main guys. Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins are second and third in the SEC in pass break ups and both play very physical ball. Purifoy plays like he is glued to the receiver and is even more physical than the first two. It is a terrific trio of corners the Gators have fielded this season and they grew up a bunch from a year ago.


Roberson leads the team in pass deflections

Need Improvement: Given the way they have played so far, a few pass interference calls are okay, but cutting them down would be the best case scenario. There seem to be some mystery calls with these guys and I think as their reputations grow, they will start getting a lot more of the calls going their way. With Cody Riggs out, I would like to see Brown or Poole get more involved and provide more quality depth. Hopefully that will come and then Riggs will also return.

Coaching: Dan Quinn (DC and DE), Bryant Young (DT)D.J. Durkin (LB), Travaris Robinson(DB) (Grade: A-)

The improvement from a year ago in most phases is apparent and the fact that so many new faces on defense are seeing plenty of time on the field is a sure sign that these kids are getting coached up. Think about Fowler, Bullard, Jacobs, Orr, Okine, Morrison, Ball, Purifoy, Showers, and Gorman and that none of those players saw much or any playing time a year ago and how that has changed.

The staff is also a master of half time adjustments just like the offense and have shown that in almost every game this year. Needs Improvement: Just like the offense, the defense needs to get off to a better start. Too many games they have given up first drive scores or very early scores and sometimes put the offense in a hole.

SPECIAL TEAMS The Kickers: Caleb Sturgis (PK), Kyle Christy (P) (Grade: A+)

Both of these guys should be mentioned in team MVP honors when that is brought up. Both have been huge t the success of the season so far. Sturgis is money on field goals and is a weapon on kickoffs as well. Christy has done so much in terms of flipping the field position during games whether it is nailing a bomb of a punt or pinning the opponent back near or inside the ten yard line.

Returns (Grade C-)

Andre Debose had the best return of the season near the end of the Vanderbilt game and both kick returns and punt returns have been lackluster at best and punt returns have been somewhat of a negative adventure.

Coverage (Grade: B+)

No one has really done any damage on Florida in the kickoff or punt return game. I would say kickoff coverage has been pretty good given the fact that on a touchback the ball is now placed on the 25 yard line and most of the time the Gators seem to pin their opponents inside the 20 on kickoff returns.


Sturgis has been big for the Gators... again.

Coaching Special Teams: (Grade: A-) Two point conversions, fake punts, fake field goals, excellent punting, excellent field goal percentage, some blocks thrown in, excellent coverage on kicks and punts. If it weren't for the overall return game, special teams coaching would get an A+. Maybe Debose's return will be the spark they need there.


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