Greene leads the Seminoles with 83 catches, 1,148 yards and five touchdowns. Tight end Nick O’Leary is the second best pass catcher on the team, but he has 43 fewer receptions and 683 fewer receiving yards than Greene.
The last time this idea came up was when Florida went to Tuscaloosa, facing All-American receiver Amari Cooper. Florida coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said they felt comfortable with the way the defense was playing and didn’t want to jeopardize that by having one player following Cooper everywhere he went.
Cooper ended that day with 10 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
“Based on coverage and call and situation, it will be different,” Durkin said about who will be covering Greene. “They are going to be matched up on each other at times. There will be times where he won’t be. It won’t be one of those deals where he’s with him the whole game.”
Durkin said the decision has more to do with trusting the defensive scheme as a whole. Florida freshmen Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson have played well at cornerback as the season has continued, and the coaches trust them if they end up covering Florida State’s go-to guy.
If the Gators did elect to put Hargreaves on Greene for the entire game, Durkin said it would force some players into new situations that they aren’t familiar with. That risks a busted coverage against one of the Seminoles’ other receivers.
“I think the main thing is being able to execute,” Durkin said. “Obviously, he’s a great receiver and he’s the guy they go to. We feel good about Vernon as a cover guy, but we don’t want to sacrifice the whole integrity of what we do defensively to say that’s the matchup.”
It does mean the Florida secondary will have to be aware of where Greene is. The Seminoles have freshmen receivers that can cause problems behind Greene -- namely Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane. But if Greene breaks out and has a big day, it makes it more difficult for the Florida secondary to play well.
The best way to do it is by communicating. It’s a little easier to communicate on the road since the home crowd is quiet when the offense is on the field, but the Florida secondary will have to make sure it’s in the right position on Saturday, especially to make sure the coverage on Greene is correct.
“Communication. That’s the key,” Florida safety Keanu Neal said. “Just communication. Just being on the same page because honestly we have a lot of talent in the defensive backfield. We’ve just got to communicate and be on the same page and we’ll be good.”