Defense Trying to Learn from the Past

The 2008 season is playing out a lot like the early part of the '07 season on defense. The Gators have been impressive through their first three games, but they caught a little challenge last year in the second half against Ole Miss. Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong thinks this year's team has learned from that experience.

After a huge win against Tennessee last season, the Gator defense was feeling pretty good about themselves. But then they allowed a second half comeback to the Rebels before losing three of their next four games.

"You just think that they've grown up from last season and they won't make that mistake again," Strong said earlier this week. "We just have to keep practicing and getting better. What's different with this group from last season is they understand what happened to them last season. Everything that was said that they weren't a very good defense, it's become an us versus the world mentality."

Strong is hoping that last year's experience is fresh in the minds of his defense this weekend against the Rebels.

"You look at last year's game and Ole Miss throw some deep passes against us and we can't let that happen," Strong said. "Our guys kind of got comfortable and we can't allow that to happen. They thought that they had arrived, but after going through that maybe they feel a little bit different now."

The Gator defense has been lights out through the first three games, holding both Miami and Tennessee to just nine points. Ole Miss presents a different challenge, though. The Rebels have more speed and talent on offense than Florida's last two opponents.

"[Jevan Snead] does have a good arm and what he does well is throw the deep ball," Strong said. "What we're going to have to do is not let him sit comfortable in the pocket and throw that ball."

The Gators may be starting a new corner in the secondary this weekend after freshman Janoris Jenkins had a big game against the Vols last week.

"Janoris has played very well for us, and we believed in the spring that he was going to be a contributor for us," Strong said. "He has no fear, so what you're afraid of is what happens that first time he gets beat. But as for now, he's doing a great job for us."

Strong knew Jenkins was going to be a big player even before he came to Gainesville.

"Recruiting him out of high school we really liked him because of how big he plays," Strong said. "You would never know it because of where he comes from and the size of his school, but he was a state champion. We just like his competitiveness."

One of the biggest differences for the Gator D from this last year to this year is depth. Where last year's squad was shorthanded, this year's is full of capable players.

"What we realize now is that we do have a lot of guys that we can rotate," Strong said. "If guys don't play well, they're not going to play. Just because of what happened to us last season, we had to play some guys that weren't ready to play, but they were not in position to play."

Strong said he likes the way the defense is coming together this season, there's just a couple of areas that they need to continue to improve in.

"Last game we missed a lot of tackles," he said. "We know this, we have to get off the field and improve our third down."

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