Quinn Notebook: Jenkins welcomed back

On Saturday, Florida linebacker Jelani Jenkins played his first full game since the season opener. A broken thumb and a hamstring injury have slowed his season, but the redshirt junior is now back on the field and at full strength. The Gators were able to develop depth at the linebacker position as younger players stepped up. Jenkins' return was a big boost for Florida defense.

Jenkins had four tackles and one sack on Saturday, but he flew around the field and was in the right play to slow the Gamecocks. It isn't about the statistics with Jenkins. The Gators just welcomed his veteran presence back to the front seven.

"It has been frustrating not being able to help because of my injuries," Jelani Jenkins said. "At the same time, I'm very happy with what everybody has been doing out there."

Jenkins thought he made his return with a splash after pulling down a diving interception in the flats late in the first half against South Carolina. It thwarted a late chance for the Gamecocks to get into the end zone before halftime and trying to regain momentum.

The play was waved off because Lerentee McCray was lined up in the neutral zone and called for being offside.

"I think he certainly wanted it," Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said of the interception. "It was a good teaching lesson for all of us. When something like that, to be aligned offside and not have the ability to have the takeaway count was big for us. All the stuff you can learn from. He made a terrific break on the ball."?

Freshman Antonio Morrison and redshirt sophomore Michael Taylor filled in when Jenkins was out, and the young players filled in well. However, there's the veteran experience on the field that Jenkins brings. He knows the defense and has the all-around skill set to change the game.

"It was great to see him back playing," He certainly has speed to match-up with people. He's a good blitzer. I thought he had a couple of physical tackles, too, so I was really pleased for having time off for him coming back and contributing the way he did in his first extended action in a while."?

OFFENSE HELPS THE DEFENSE: The Florida defense has spent the offseason focused on creating turnovers, but there has also been an added emphasis on the offense not turning the ball over. That, in turn, helps the Florida defense because it allows them to take on opposing offenses with a long field between them and the end zone. It also means the Florida offense is possessing the ball for a longer time.

"It's less possessions for the other team," Quinn said. "When you're winning some of your time of possession battles, a lot of that has to do with an offense that can take care of the ball and maybe we can give them a few during a game. That's less possessions that you're going to have to go out and start a drive defensively. When you're not having to play 80 or 85 plays and you're now down in the 50s or low 60s, it minimizes their chances."

The increased turnovers forced by the Florida defense this year was the focus throughout the offseason, but Quinn isn't afraid to admit that some of it has to do with luck. The Florida defense is in better position this year because it's the second year of the defensive scheme, but part of it has to do with turnovers bouncing one way or another.

"There's probably been a few," Quinn said of turnovers that involve luck. "Some of the ones that are?just an overthrown ball where nobody affected the throw and you had a?chance to go make it. Usually those are the ones that may come out?where it's just an overthrown ball. I could think of a few that are?really not affected by anybody.

"Maybe it was just a poor throw or I?can think of one where it was a missed exchange on a handoff. Those?are the ones that are really truly lucky, or lucky bounces."

DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT: Linebacker Jon Bostic said earlier in the week that the defensive improvement this year was simply a product of improved tackling. It's a big part of what is happening on the field, but the Gators also have improved strength and depth at the line of scrimmage.

"At the line of scrimmage, we're probably playing blocks a little bit better than we had maybe prior, but I think tackling is a big part of it," Quinn said. "oOur team has improved in that area. We worked had at it. We emphasized it, and as you know, you get what you emphasize. I think he's right in identifying that as one of the areas of why we're playing better in the run game."


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