Kan Li / Scout

Stopping Hawkeyes will take creativity

The number of injuries for the Florida Gators, especially on the defensive side, has interim defensive coordinator Randy Shannon thinking of new ways to run his defense. Florida will be without both starting linebackers and a top backup linebacker to go along with a couple of starting safeties against an Iowa team that loves to pound the ball. Scheming will be paramount.

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE Starters Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis are missing at linebacker after injuries and the pair formed one of the most formidable duos in the land. Freshman David Reese was the top backup and he is also out after surgery earlier in the month. Starting safeties Marcus Maye and Nick Washington are also out, leaving the second and third level middle of the defense young and relatively inexperienced, but maybe more importantly very thin as the Gators take on Iowa in Tampa Monday in the Outback Bowl.

Even though senior Daniel McMillian, and freshmen Kylan Johnson and Vosean Joseph have played well of late and they have backups in freshman Rayshad Jackson and walk-on Cristian Garcia, Shannon is going to have to scheme around the lack of depth at the position.  The same can be said at safety where junior Marcell Harris and freshman Chauncey Gardner will have to hold down the fort with not much behind them.

“You gotta be a little creative.” Shannon said after practice on Saturday. “You gotta do some things that will help us get better in the way that we can take… approach who can do certain things and who cannot. As a coach you have to find ways to get guys in a position to be successful and execute in a fast paced way. They’re not going to play very well if they’re not playing fast.”

Shannon knows the staff has to step up and do the things necessary to make it easy on the players and that the players are going to have to play beyond their years as well.

“It makes you grow up really fast,” he said about all the injuries. “The maturity factor has to come in and step in. It’s not the first time you go through it. It’s just your understanding as a coach you can’t sit back and say what you don’t have. You have to say what you do have. You have a bunch of players that want to play and you’ve got to coach those players to play.

"I think sometimes what coaches get enamored with is everybody wants the five-star (recruit). Great coaches have coached one-star and two-star and no-stars to be where they need to be at. I think that’s what we have to do with this defense. As any coach, you have to coach the guys you have to be the best that they can be.”

For Shannon, this time of year has often led to his defenses having to adjust to guys being out for one reason or another.

“Oh yeah, it’s always there this time of year,” he said. “I mean every time that you have an opportunity coaching you have something like this. That’s the challenge of coaching. You just have to coach them up to the best that they can be. Coach them not like they’re just some guys; coach them like they’re All-Americans, guys (that are) going to be a part of a team that’s going to make a lot of plays

Shannon like head coach Jim McElwain, refuses to use the youth and inexperience excuse with his guys. Kylan Johnson and to a lesser extent Vosean Joseph have played a lot of football. Marcell Harris and Chauncey Gardner are in the same boat this season.

 “It’ll be good. It will be fine. A lot of guys have played a lot, played some. I mean linebacker Kylan Johnson has played some games, Vosean has played some games. Garcia, I mean we were just talking that he played last year against Michigan. You’ve got guys who played a lot of football but you have opportunities for them now. Just go out and play.”

 “No pressure on those guys,” Shannon said. “Everybody’s got to do their job, everybody as one. It’s not the linebacker, it’s not the d-line, it’s not the DBs, it’s everybody. If we don’t stop the run, you can get third-down situations. If aren’t able to put pressure on the quarterback, it’s going to be a bad situation. If the DB’s are not able to cover a guy, then that’s going to be a bad situation. We’re not looking at it from anybody’s standpoint, the whole defense has to do a good job of playing defense.”

Fightin Gators Top Stories