Davis expects Florida defense to rebound

The Florida defense is spending every day of the offseason hearing about last season. The coaches remind them, calling bad plays on the practice field a ‘4-8 effort.' Posters in the team weight room remind them of the struggles last season brought. More than anything, their own memories remind them. Jarrad Davis has seen the Gators work to fix that this offseason.

Davis never expected it when he enrolled at Florida. After flipping his commitment from Auburn to Florida late in the process, he signed with a team coming off a two-loss season and a berth in the Sugar Bowl.

This offseason, he has seen the defense vow to fix its struggles. The focus of the 4-8 season was Florida's offensive output, but the defense had many of its own issues.

"Throughout the spring, we've really made sure that we worked hard on things that we do as a defense because regardless of what the offense is doing we just have to play well," Jarrad Davis said. "We have to back them up, even if they're down, they have to back us up even if we're down. It's all a team thing. We're working just as hard to make sure we're better this year."

The linebacker position was one of the most important that needed to show progress. The linebackers struggled last year, failing to get off blocks and make an impact in the run game. Florida coach Will Muschamp said this spring that a lot of that had to do with defensive linemen not keeping offensive linemen from getting to the second level, but even the linebackers admit they have to play better this fall.

Antonio Morrison was one of the most obvious players whose production took a step back in 2013. After a strong freshman season in 2012, Morrison was expected to step in as a full time starter and be the leader at the position. That didn't happen.

This offseason, Davis and Morrison have spent a lot of time together to get closer since they'll be counted on to produce together this fall.

"Me and him have gotten a lot closer since during the season," Davis said. "Just going out there playing with him seeing how he likes to play, seeing how I like to play -- me stepping my game up to better him and him picking his game up to better me. We've been together all spring and it's been good.

"We always look out for each other. We're brothers on this team, especially at the linebacker position. We're all close so we'll always look out for each other off the field, on the field, anything. It's not always about football, it may be about life and he's a guy I can go and talk to."

The goal is for the Florida linebackers and secondary to put fear into the opposing offense. That wasn't the case last year, but with big hitters like Davis and Morrison, the Gators can make opposing receivers and tight ends think twice before catching a pass over the middle of the field.

"If a receiver is coming across the middle, they're going to be worried about getting hit in the mouth," Davis said. "They can't really catch the ball because these guys are coming down so hard and so physical."

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