Gators used to facing unconventional offenses

Missouri was a change of pace for the Florida defense. After facing more transitional offenses in the previous month before the SEC finale, the Gators had to get back to the basics of defending a spread out offense. It came at a perfect time. The Louisiana offense that comes to Gainesville this weekend will be similar. They want to spread it out and throw the ball while using quarterback runs.

It's a difficult offense to defend. Louisiana quarterback Terra Broadway is second on the team in rushing while also throwing for 1,624 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is what makes the Ragin' Cajuns go on offense.

Last week against Louisiana-Munroe was the perfect example of the weapon he is. Broadway went 23-32 through the air for 373 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He added 14 rushes for 100 yards and a touchdown.

Darryl Surgent leads the team with 443 yards through the air and three touchdowns. Harry Peoples leads the team with 32 catches on the season. There is balance in the passing game, with four different pass catchers totaling at least three touchdowns.

"We have a lot of respect for their offense and the playmakers that they have," Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. "That was one of the first things that jumped off on the tape when we did our study starting from last offseason and then putting on the tape again Sunday."

After Missouri spread the field and let quarterback James Franklin throw the ball all over the field, it was good preparation for what the Gators expect to see this Saturday in The Swamp.

"This is another offense that we're going to see a lot of three and four or open receiver sets," Quinn said. "Fortunately for us this year, we've seen some of those type of offenses, counting Missouri and Texas A&M, new to the SEC that maybe don't play the same style that we've been accustomed to. Drawing from those experiences, knowing we've had some four and five open set offenses, certainly helps."

It's the homecoming game on Saturday and the Florida seniors will be recognized on Friday night at Gator Growl. Florida coach Will Muschamp also said he expects to have former Florida players speak to the team throughout the week about the history of the program and the importance of playing for the program.

The hope is that motivation won't be necessary. With conference play over and Florida playing Louisiana and Jacksonville State in back-to-back weeks, Quinn doesn't expect his team to need much motivation to avoid overlooking the opponent.

"When we put on the tape of Louisiana, it really showed this is a very good offense," Quinn said. "Whatever conference they're in, throw the conference out. Look at the scheme and look at the players. I think that's really where it starts and how you go about your preparation. Get your preparation right. Do your things and how we're going to go about it. You learn from those experiences.

"I don't know if we've always done that as well as we could have, but we're growing in that way to be better. Here's the next opponent, let's go play. Here's the game plan. Let's go attack it and put it on."

BULLARD AND FOWLER COMING ON: Freshmen defensive linemen Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler are improving by the way. The duo combined for 3.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks against Missouri last Saturday. The only other sack between the two was when Fowler recorded one against South Carolina.

Bullard doesn't have the sack numbers, but he's still bringing the pressure. The freshman leads the team with five quarterback hurries this year.

"When they were coming in, we thought they had the physical ability to do it. (The question was) how fast could they get connected to learn the system and play within the system to be productive?

"I've been really pleased with where they're at. Each week, you kind of see a little something extra. I thought that was maybe the case this week with Bullard, where he made some plays I thought that really helped us, and I'm hoping to see those guys continue because I really think they've got a big future."

Fowler made headlines in fall camp with a strong start. Veterans were talking about their struggles blocking him, and it looked like he could turn into the perfect player to fill in for the injured Ronald Powell. He looked good early in the season, but his production then started to slow.

That changed after a meeting with Quinn about one month ago.

"I think over the last three or four weeks, I've really seen Fowler improve," Quinn said. "I thought there was a spot there in the middle where he even felt like maybe he was slowing down and thinking too much in terms of the calls. We met on it and got together, and to his credit, he really picked it back up. It wasn't a lack of focus or trying or effort. It was just I think everything was kind of hitting all at once, and he hit the wall a little bit."

The freshman impact is a sign of what the Florida defense needs in the future. Losing Lerentee McCray and possibly Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley to the NFL, the Gators will need some pass rushers to step up. With a full offseason under their belts, Bullard and Fowler could mold into those players.

"I think both of them have the ability to because they're both really strong already as freshmen," Quinn said. "That kind of strength, they just have that naturally. When they add more, another couple years in the weight room and get stronger and faster, I think that's going to transfer over even more. When you start with good quickness and really good natural strength, you have a good base to work with."

The two got increased time on the field against Missouri because McCray was out with an ankle injury. Watching from the sideline, the fifth-year senior was impressed with how the freshmen duo looked.

"Them boys played extremely well," he said. "Jonathan Bullard had the game of his life. He had two sacks, so he definitely did a great job coming in, filling in. Dante Fowler, he's a guy that ya'll going to be talking about for years to come. He's going to be real good."

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