Gators face challenge to slow Gurley

The Gators have built a dominant defense over the last two years because of their ability to stop the run. In the last two games, that has taken a step back. Florida was gashed for 175 rushing yards by LSU and 205 rushing yards by Missouri. With a bye week to fix the holes in the middle of the defense, Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin is confident it will improve on Saturday.

But it won't be easy. Georgia running back Todd Gurley will return on Saturday for his first game since suffering a high ankle sprain against LSU on September 28. The sophomore missed games against Tennessee, Missouri and Vanderbilt before using last week's bye to fully rest the ankle. Head coach Mark Richt said on Wednesday that he would play on Saturday baring an unexpected setback.

The Gators have been preparing for Gurley this week. He ran for 118 yards against Florida last season, the most rushing yards allowed by the Gators on the ground last season.

"We are keyed up," Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. Part of it is winning on first down. We talk a lot about winning on third down, which is obviously is critical, that's how you get off the field. To better your chances on third down, you've got to win on first down.

"Stopping the run becomes a big thing for us. Obviously, these guys run the ball well. With Gurley being back, he's a dangerous back. He presents an issue that way. We have to do a good job of it."

After Florida lost at Missouri two weeks ago, head coach Will Muschamp admitted that they should've played more defensive tackles with Damien Jacobs out. Jacobs will return after his head injury and play this Saturday, but there's still a chance Florida could pull the redshirt off a freshman, specifically Jay-nard Bostwick.

Durkin expects the Florida defense to play more guys at defensive tackle this week.

"There will be more guys in there in the rotation," Durkin said. "It's a key component to what we've always been able to do here defensively. Having some guys out you're not quite the same luxury as normal. We've got a lot of guys who can play. We'll try and keep guys fresh that way and roll them in."

Muschamp said on Monday that the coaches have conversations with all of the freshmen at this point in the season to see if they would want to continue redshirt and save a year of eligibility or get on the field to help immediately. Durkin said that Bostwick has told the coaches he is interested in playing this fall if it helps the team improve.

After being dominated up front by Missouri two weeks ago, Durkin is confident that won't happen again this week against Georgia.

"The way our guys practice, the way they prepare, the guys we're coaching," Durkin said of why he believes the defense will improve. "I think we got guys with great character and guys that are really good football players. Their response these past two weeks and how they're practicing and preparing tells me that the way that you move on. They know what it takes and what you need to do."

DAVIS IMPROVING: Freshman linebacker Jarrad Davis saw time on defense against Missouri. Davis has been an important part of Florida's special teams units so far, and Durkin called him "elite" on special teams so far.

He has proven capable of handling more reps on defense and should see them going forward.

"Jarrad's done a great job with the snaps he's had on special teams," Durkin said. "He hasn't had a ton on defense leading up to that point, but on specials teams he's been an elite performer for us playing in all phases.

"He's got a great career, a bright future ahead of him. He's learning the defense better and better and doing better in practice. He'll continue to play more on defense."

PURIFOY NEEDING TO IMPROVE: No one has questioned Loucheiz Purifoy's athleticism, but he has struggled to tackle in his three years at Florida. He isn't afraid to hit, and that sometimes proves to be his downfall while trying to tackle.

"I think that is an area we have talked about Loucheiz, not just this year but in past years too -- improving on tackling," Durkin said. "He's a physical guy, it's more a matter of technique and fundamentals because he'll throw his body around and hit you, but he doesn't always wrap up and do things fundamentally that you need to do to tackle.

He's competitive, plays hard, plays physical. Absolutely, we continue to work on it to get better with him."

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