Defensive Line Prepares for Huge Challenge

Against one of the top offensive linemen in the nation, Florida's defensive line must find a way to get around Shawn Andrews. The Gators believe they are prepared for the challenge....

Florida defensive tackle Ray McDonald isn't afraid of Shawn "Hurricane" Andrews. He isn't afraid of his hype. Or his size. Or his countless accolades.

And he certainly isn't afraid of his Web site.

"Sounds like he's a showboat to me," McDonald said of Arkansas' 6-foot-6, 352-pound offensive tackle. "He's impressive, but I don't think he's too big for us. We just have to hit him in the mouth. We're going to show him we're still the Gators."

Yes, Andrews does star in his own flashy home page at Shawn But lately, the anchor of Arkansas' potent ground attack actually has lived up to the world-wide (web) hype.

Against Alabama on Sept. 27, the junior recorded 21 knock downs and graded out at 99 percent. Now Florida, who plays at Arkansas on Saturday, must find a way to break him down. It's a task this angry – and often criticized -- defensive line is ready to accept.

"We're getting tired of people talking bad about the defensive line," McDonald said. "I don't know why everybody says we're the weak link. I don't know where they get that from. I think we're one of the best defensive lines in the country."

Until Saturday, though, the unit hadn't done much to help. As the ninth-ranked rushing defense in the conference, Florida was giving up an average of 152.2 yards per game.

Then, against a highly regarded Tigers offense, the defensive line played its best game of the year, holding the rush to 56 yards.

"Now, we need to be consistent," defensive line coach Red Anderson said. "There's times we've done well and times we haven't. We can be better."

Saturday, some would argue they must be better. After all, Andrews isn't the Razorbacks' only weapon this unit must deal with. Tailback Cedric Cobbs leads the conference in rushing yards with 128 per game, while quarterback Matt Jones is known for his scrambling ability.

All factors considered, defensive tackle Kenny Parker said the game plan is uncomplicated.

"Stop the run," he said. "Shut it down. Plain and simple. They're going to try to run it down our throats. They're going to run it down Shawn's side a lot. But we've got to shut him down."

At this point in the season, Florida's linebackers and defensive ends have become two of the Gators' hottest positions. But it remains to be known whether the interior line will continue to play as they did Saturday.

A return to their early-season form could be a devastating blow to Florida's hopes for a win. As Anderson explains, though, the reason for the previous problems had to do with a lack of stability.

"You've got to realize, we have a group of guys that had not played," he said. "None of those guys were on defense inside last year. Mo [Mitchell] was an offensive lineman. Ronald Dowdy was an offensive lineman. Marcus Thomas was a true freshman. Kenny Parker had a few back operations and hadn't touched the field. And Ray McDonald was a redshirt freshman who had never played before.

"It's been a learning process for all of them."

The learning curve is over, and these defensive linemen are completely aware of that. So while they may not get the notoriety of Andrews, this will be the chance to prove they deserve otherwise.

"It must be nice to have your own Web site," Parker said. "I've got my own e-mail address, but I don't have a Web site. I hear he's the best offensive lineman in the nation. So maybe when we shut him out, we'll get our name out there, too."

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