D-line Key to Improved Defense

If the Gator defense is going to improve this season, it has to start with the guys up front on the defensive line. An improved pass rush will help the secondary in coverage and gap discipline with regards to the run will help the linebacking corps.

Defensive line coach Dan McCarney immediately recognized the need for improved play upfront when he came to Gainesville, and as the Gators march toward their season opener, he's pleased with the progress since the spring.

With Hawaii's passing attack, it's likely the Gators will show a three-man front. Earlier this week, McCarney discussed who might be in the rotation starting with true freshman Matt Patchan who returned to full contact on Monday for the first time this fall.

"It looks like he hasn't missed a beat," McCarney said. "He looked fast. He looked physical. He had a little bit of everything, and I'll give him some more. If he continues to look this way, he'll definitely play on Saturday. He won't start, but he'll definitely play."

One guy who might not get the change to play because of a cracked bone in his hand is John Brown.

"He's been practicing, but not in the two-deep," McCarney said. "He's limited right know with a cast. He's not on the two-deep now, and he wasn't in the spring. He's got some work to do. "

Brown was a highly recruited talent in high school, but being new to the Gators, McCarney didn't have a chance to recruit him back then.

"I didn't see him in high school," he said. "I got here in February so that's all I know. I'm going to keep coaching him along, but he's not in the two-deep. That's tells you where he's at. He's not at the point where he can help us on game day. I'm not going to stop working with him. I'm not going to kill his spirit, but he's got to get himself to the point where he can help this football team and he shows me he can be successful and consistent."

The rotation at nose guard has Lawrence Marsh starting. Marsh has been called by both McCarney and Urban Meyer one of the most improved players since the spring. He'll be followed by junior college transfer Troy Epps and freshman Omar Hunter.

At defensive tackle, Terron Sanders is the likely starter. He should be followed by Patchan and senior Javier Estopinan.

"I wanted to build a rotation with 6-8 guys, not so that we can be fresh, but because guys earned it," McCarney said. "I'm hoping we can do that on Saturday. It's going to be real hot on Saturday at kickoff. Not only that, but I think it's good for attitude and morale."

One guy who was here last year and is still trying to work his way into the rotation is Jaye Howard.

"He's one of those guys fighting for playing time," McCarney said. "He's a three right now trying to become a two. Hopefully, he gets it because he'd be one of those guys in the rotation and one of the guys that would get a chance to play for the first time in The Swamp on Saturday."

In addition to Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham at end, McCarney is high on Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens.

"They're a joy to coach," he said.

McCarney has been around the game of football for more than 30 years, and he's had a home in Florida for several years, but Saturday will be his first time in The Swamp for game day.

"America comes alive when college football starts," he said. "I can't wait. I've been here in the winter and the spring, but I've never been here on game day. This is what it's all about. The emotion, the passion the students, the fans, I've seen this place on television and I finally get a chance to be here in person and coach."

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