Gator Defense Expects to Rebound

The Florida Gators are in the unenviable position this week of going on the road in the SEC after losing a home game. This early in the season, the psyche of the team could be at stake and no one knows just how fragile that psyche can be right now. The Florida staff is well aware of that, but it appears the team, especially on defense is ready to rebound from the disappointing loss last week.

Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong's defense played a good game most of the day stopping Mississippi's defense eight of 14 series on three downs or less. Several breakdowns and big plays allowed Mississippi to do things others haven't been able to do. Add on a hand full of offensive miscues and the entire team had a bad day overall.

That game is behind them and it is time to move on. All of the attainable goals are still in front of this Gator squad and the staff will have a better understanding of what this team is capable of after this weekend's match up.

"We are good enough now where we can rebound from a loss. ... We will see how good of a football team we are on Saturday," Strong said Tuesday. "They understand that they didn't play well as a defense. We have to play much better. At home you would think we had enough juice. You have to have the focus and guys have to understand they cannot take a play off."

According to Strong, blame goes all around for the loss on Saturday. The coaching staff wasn't without it's miscues as well. However, he doesn't believe the busted plays were indicative of what this defense is all about.

"If you take those plays out,those were just break downs," he said of the four busted plays that were eventual back breakers for the Gators. "The 36-yarder, we didn't get someone over the top. The 86-yarder, we had no answer just a poor break on the football. The 40-yard run, we had missed tackles and the other touchdown was just a poor play call on my part because we didn't have the back covered and he got out there on a screen... I am not that concerned about it, because I think we played well up until those two plays."

Strong will go into this game with a couple of injuries at linebacker. Starting Will linebacker Dustin Doe had surgery yesterday to correct a double hernia and is out at least two weeks. Ryan Stamper, a back up at every position missed the game against Ole Miss and is recovering from an ankle sprain. According to Strong, they should be alright for the game against Arkansas at the linebacker position.

"We still have (Brandon) Spikes, (Brandon) Hicks, and A.J. Jones," Strong said. Now we take John Jones and Lorenzo Edwards, we still have five guys at the position. I am comfortable that those guys will get the job done because we are fairly simple on defense and they've been in the system now for two years. Hicks will go at will linebacker, and Stamper isn't ready but I think he will be ready by Saturday."

One player that missed a start for the first time this season was cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis. Pierre-Louis was passed on the depth chart by freshman Janoris Jenkins who has been playing outstanding football so far this season. According to Strong, Wondy will get his time to shine again, he just needs to stay focused and positive.

"We made the move with Janoris Jenkins in the last game and in the nickel we played Markihe some," Strong said. "Wondy is going to still play and I told him to keep battling...keep your head up."

Strong knows what he is facing on Saturday and a Coach Bobby Petrino is known for his high flying offense and the staff at Florida is well aware of it. Strong knows his team has to be at their best on the road because this will be another team ready to knock off the ranked Gators.

"They do a good job of throwing the ball," he said. "Casey Dick is a good quarterback and (Michael) Smith is a good running back. We have to keep them in front of us and go make plays. We have to get pressure on the quarterbacks, we only had two sacks on Saturday. We have to get pressure, and we will."

Defensive line coach Dan McCarney likes how his troops have responded to the big upset on Saturday. His unit came out focused and ready to make amends for a bad day in The Swamp.

"They reacted and responded the way we wanted them to," he said of the first two practices of the week. "They are disappointed and upset, no smiles, it isn't a happy time at Florida right now. There is just great resolve in this program and we'll come back and I thought we had a great practice tonight.

"I have seen since I got here with this program in February. With this program, after a disappointing finish to the season...especially in the bowl game...I just think you see great grit, courage, character, and resolve. Everyone is really upset."

That attitude has to be channeled and McCarney and company recognize they can't be moping around constantly having the albatross of the Ole Miss game weighing them down. They took strides this week of making sure that doesn't happen by calling a first ever Sunday practice after a game.

"The Mississippi loss can't cause you an Arkansas loss, you can't keep sitting around and talking about it, and we haven't," McCarney said. "Coach Meyer adjusted the schedule, we practiced on Sunday night and I liked that a lot better. We put it behind us as fast as we could, we spent all day (Monday) game planning and today it is all Arkansas with the players."

McCarney was adamant all week that the Ole Miss offensive front was the best they had seen all year and he believes that after the game. He thought his troops played fairly well, but knows they have to improve to maintain the goals the team set for themselves this season.

"We had two sacks and seven pressures, but we are always looking for more," he said. "I told our guys that their quarterback and offensive line were better at Mississippi than Tennessee, and I said that after the game, I was really impressed with them."

And there is another task at hand that if not for a great effort, could have the same outcome. Arkansas comes in with talent and good coaching, a deadly combination in the SEC.

"They have the Remington Award winner at center...the quarterback is either one or two in every passing category...their running back is fourth in the league in rushing," he said. "Coach Petrino is an outstanding football coach and wherever he has been he has moved the ball. They have played two top ten teams and got behind early and it was hard to rally. Mississippi is an example for Arkansas that it can be done."

And while the linebacker unit seems to be losing players to injury, McCarney's defensive line may be getting some help here soon from two players that were expected to make some noise this year way back in the spring. Freshman nose tackle Omar Hunter saw action against Ole Miss and is getting into great shape and sophomore defensive tackle Torrey Davis appears to be on the verge of stepping back into the good graces of the coaching staff.

"Getting closer...Omar got in the rotation for a few snaps the other day," McCarney said when asked about both. "Torrey is getting in better shape each day and putting himself in better position to possibly play. It is day to day (for Davis), and that is as honest as I can be with you."

When asked if Davis may make the trip to Arkansas?

"I don't know," McCarney said. "We are still evaluating. We are going to go upstairs and watch the tape."

A loss hurts in a season where everyone was pointing to great things for this Gator football team. Saturday marks a new season of sorts and it appears the defensive staff is approaching it that way. The Gators are hoping and expect to make a big change.


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