In Your Face Coverage Fits Webb Perfectly

There is a new approach to football this season for the Florida secondary. The zone defenses that were so much a part of the way things were done the last three years have been scrapped for an aggressive, in your face, man-to-man defense. It's the kind of defense that fits Dee Webb's skills perfectly.

"We are getting our chance to get up in the receivers face," Webb said at media days. "Last year we played a lot of off-man and a lot of zone. Now, with the defensive backs we have this year we will go out and attack people and go out and cover them. We are going to do a lot more aggressive football. What you saw from Utah last year is what you are going to see from us. We know facing them top receivers, they are making us better and we are making them better day in and day out."

Coach Meyer and staff have taken an attack approach to all phases of the football team. They are not going to allow an offense to dictate to the defense, but instead the idea is to force offenses into things they don't want to do. This will require the defenders to know exactly what they are doing on the field at all times. Cornerback Coach Chuck Heater is one of the best at doing this with his troops.

"As far as Coach Heater, he is a very technically sound coach," Webb said. "He wants you to go out there and work your technique all day. When we are in individual (drills) he wants that technique to be perfect. Once he watches that film, he wants to see it done. Then he knows his coaching is showing up on the field."

Another part of the improvement of the defense has been hustle. According to many members of the defense it wasn't uncommon to take a few plays off last year and that may have cost the team in critical situations. Because of the trust that has been built among the players and coaches, Webb says that is highly unlikely to happen this year.

"All of this team is about trust right now," he said. "It was just people didn't go out there and compete every down. I know I didn't do that last year. That is what Coach has been after us about going out and competing every down.

Coming into the preseason Webb was somewhat of a known commodity. He has experience and has played well as a starter on defense. The opposite side and other areas of the secondary were of concern coming into fall drills. According to Webb, there is no longer a need for concern.

"Right now we have Vernell starting on the other side," he said. "Of all the corners he has probably had the best camp so far, so I feel really comfortable with him right now. With Reggie Nelson and Reggie Lewis, they are going out there and competing for the nickel spot. Right now, I think we have four corners that can go out and play right now and rely on."

Webb thinks Nelson and true freshman Avery Atkins have the talent to play key roles in the defense this season. During pre-fall camp, Webb roomed with Nelson and Vernell roomed with Atkins. Webb and Brown were in charge of teaching the newcomers in their spare time.

"They are pretty good," Webb said of the new guys. "I knew Reggie was going to come in and do his thing, because we came out at the same time and played together a couple of times. Avery came in and showed he had heart and competed. We know we can't play every play … we know we need some backups, so we are trying to help them get ready."

Of course when the defenders look good in practice, some will ask if the offense is lagging behind. One thing most Gator fans knew coming in was that the wide receivers were a team strength, maybe the most talented position on the team. Through most of fall camp, the receivers were held in check. Webb sees that as a good sign for the defensive backs because he knows that these receivers can do.

"When they finally get this system down I feel like they can't be beat," Webb said about the receivers he faces every day. "For us going against them every day, we feel like we won't have anything to worry about on Saturday. We feel like they are the best receivers in the SEC."

The foundation of Webb's game has always been speed but even though he's a blazer, he has his hands full in practice. He's the third fastest player on the team but there are two receivers who are faster.

"We have three of us in the top, but we don't usually race," he said. "We are 4.29, 4.29, and a 4.31. The two receivers ran a 4.29 and we talked about it, but we don't run head to head. We are going to leave it at that."

Dee Webb may be the leader of the most improved unit on the entire Gator team from last year. It was a unit that was not highly thought of coming into fall practice, but has shown that it will compete this fall more than it has in a while.

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