Fightin’ Gators: What unit do you believe you can lean on this fall?
Geoff Collins: “The first answer is the secondary. It’s the deepest position we have on the team. There are 7-8 legitimate SEC game ready players right now. The leadership back there, the energy, and intelligence is the thing we will lean on early. We are trying to find some pass rush, McCalister was leading the team in pass rush before the bowl game. There is a bright spot there. We are trying to compliment him. Bullard had a really good spring. The two linebacker starters from last year didn’t go through spring, but I thought Alex Anzalone really stood up and I was excited to see that.”
Fightin’ Gators: What kind of things can you do with a secondary like that?
Geoff Collins: “The big thing is that is obviously what we have done wherever I have gone. Having those guys on the backend gives you that flexibility and ability to do that. Also, the ability to play some intricate coverages, and some changeups, whether singling up Vernon or Poole, or whatever. We just have the ability to do some different things on the back end is a nice bonus to have.
Fightin’ Gators: Did the issues on the offensive line with numbers in the spring set you guys back?
Geoff Collins: “There were days in the spring that we were limited defensively (depth wise). We went through the spring with four scholarship linebackers and there were some days during the spring that we were with 5-6 scholarship defensive linemen. It doesn’t matter who we lined up against or who we are playing. The attention to detail with technique, the attention to detail with effort, running to the ball, playing assignment football.. it really doesn’t matter if we are going against cans, those are the things we emphasized.
“I thought the offensive line, whoever it was, got better every single day and competed. It was a good challenge.”
Fightin’ Gators: You talk about the 28 guys above the line (10 DL, 8 LB, 10 DB) on defense, what position do freshmen have a chance of coming in and contributing?
Geoff Collins: “The big thing that Coach Mac is stressing is that the guys that we sign, their playing time will depend on how fast they can learn the system and how physically and mentally they are ready to play in the SEC. There are spots if they can work their way in maturity wise and learn the play book. I think with any spot, they will be able to step in if they are ready. “
Fightin’ Gators: Who progressed the most in the spring?
Geoff Collins: “Alex Anzalone and the challenge that he had coming in stepping into Antonio Morrison’s shoes and the type of season he had. I thought he rose to the challenge and had a really good spring. Alex McCalister and there were a bunch of guys that were learning the attention to detail that Coach Mac is stressing. Finding leadership in the group was big for us.”
Fightin’ Gators: What are the names for the two hybrid spots on the field?
Geoff Collins: “The NICKEL is the same we called it everywhere and the RUSH is the same as the past.”
Fightin’ Gators: Who will play at the RUSH?
Geoff Collins: “Going through the spring, McCalister did it, Jordan Sherit, Justus Reed, Bullard played some. A couple of linebackers we rolled in and out and actually a couple of DB’s. I’d say 7-8 guys depending on the package we were doing and depending on what personnel the offense gave us. “
Fightin’ Gators: Anything missing on the roster?
Geoff Collins: “The big thing is trying to create more length across the board through the roster. The thing we had at Mississippi State is we had a bunch of 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6 long guys up in the front seven and then we were long at corner and safety. Just creating more length throughout the recruiting process, getting longer athletes that can make plays with their size.
“You look at Kentucky basketball, one of the things that separate them from everybody is that they are so long. One of the things that makes a difference these days with spread football, if you can take way space with your physical presence, it gives you an advantage across the board getting more length at each position. At the RUSH, getting the Alex McCalister body type, kind of the long, lean, athletic, basketball type guys that can come off the edge, drop in coverage, and have the speed to cover people and blitz is of primary importance.”
Fightin’ Gators: Are those hard to find?
Geoff Collins: “If you have what you are looking for and detail it throughout the recruiting process. That is what we’ve done when we are looking at recruits and set priorities on the board, our recruiting guys and across the staff both offensively and defensively understand what we want and the blue print for getting longer and the guys that have length on the field.