Gators preparing for explosive offense

The Gators don't have the familiarity with Miami that exists with other rivals. When the coaches turn on tape to start familiarizing with an opponent, there's carryover from the previous season. That didn't exist when the coaches turned on the tape of Miami. The most familiarity for the defensive coaches comes from spending time recruiting players on the Miami offense.

"A lot of these guys, through recruiting, you're familiar with them," Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. "It's guys you've evaluated and/or recruited. It's definitely not starting from nothing. I guess in terms of when you play a team every year, you kind of know their style. Not only their players, but also their coaches and what they like to do and how they like to attack things.

"I guess in that area it's a little different and it helps. But with these guys, we're pretty familiar with the guys on their team and also the coaches."

It all starts in the run game for Miami. Duke Johnson received plenty of hype after a freshman season that saw him rush for 947 yards and 10 touchdowns. In the Hurricanes' first game against Florida Atlantic last week, Johnson rushed for a nation-high 186 yards and added a touchdown.

He's different from what the Gators have on their roster, and that's a big part of why they went hard after Johnson in the recruiting process. He's a speed back, depending last year almost exclusively on his speed. This offseason, Johnson bulked up and added some weight to take an extended amount of carries. He touched the ball 19 times in the season opener.

Durkin is emphasizing for the team to recognize where Johnson is on the field before the snap. Gap discipline is also key in limiting the big gains that Johnson thrives on -- recording 10 runs of 50 yards or more on 158 career carries.

"That guy can put his foot in the ground and change the score on any down," Durkin said. "He is a fast guy, a quick guy, a great change of direction. He has great running back skills. He finishes runs, he's physical, he runs inside the tackles really well, too.

"It's not like he's just a perimeter guy. He's a complete back. He catches the ball well out of the backfield. He's the total package."

When it isn't coming on the ground with Johnson, senior quarterback Stephen Morris knows the offense well and has a big arm to hit plays down the field. As a junior, Morris threw for 3,345 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He went 15-for-27, throwing for 160 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the season opener against Florida Atlantic.

"He's a really talented quarterback," Durkin said. "That guy can make all the throws, he manages the game really well. He looks really comfortable in terms of calling the offense and what they're doing. So that's the biggest challenge for us, absolutely."

While Johnson and Morris certainly stand out on film, Durkin also saw plenty of speed and playmaking ability at the receiver position. Phillip Dorsett, Herb Waters, Allen Hurns and freshman Stacy Coley will all be involved at the position, giving the Florida secondary its first challenge of the season.

"Those guys, they've got great speed," Durkin said. "You can see it. It shows up on tape. A lot of those guys we're familiar with coming through from high school, but they play fast. That's a big challenge for us."

EASLEY AND ORR PLAYING WELL: The pass rush is expected to carry the Florida front seven, but it didn't only come off the edge against Toledo. The Gators also got solid play from starting defensive tackles Dominique Easley and Leon Orr.

Easley's burst off the line of scrimmage looked as good as it has since he came to Florida, crediting complete confidence on his knee that kept him out of games last season. The burst is back.

"Dominique, he's one of the highest motor guys I've ever been around," Durkin said. "I've always felt that way about him. He had a very productive game and was all over the field, but I've seen him do that before. I think the biggest thing with him is being consistent every week now and building on it. You can tell he feels healthy and fresh. We like when he feels healthy and fresh."?

The praise for Orr started to build through fall camp and continues to show up after the first week. The 305-pounder showed off his athleticism, getting sideline-to-sideline to make tackles with his size.

"I think he's playing his best football he's played since he's been here," Durkin said. "I think through practice, spring ball and camp that was true. You always want to see it go out on the field and translate over there -- and it did. He played a great game. I thought he was hustling all over the place, he was fitting things right, he was improving his pad level, which is always something we've been talking about. I think Leon's playing his best football."

BALL EXCELLING AT WILL: Neiron Ball moved to WILL linebacker in the offseason to make up for the early season loss of linebacker Antonio Morrison. The more he practiced there, the more the coaches thought about keeping him there. Morrison returns to the field this week, and Ball is staying at WILL because of his impressive performance.

"You want to see him go do it in a game, and he did that," Durkin said. "He tackled really well in the open field. He was on point with his coverage. He read things well, saw things well."

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