Gator Defense Still Proving Themselves

Not only are they getting the thought and constant banter of Oklahoma's high powered offense thrown in their face, the Florida defense has been over looked all season due to the success of the Florida offense. The Gators have come far in one season on defense.

They were one of the worst in the SEC in 2007 and this year they are the best. Some respect could be earned against Oklahoma Thursday night.

Oklahoma's offense is the talk of the nation this year setting records that may never be broken by anyone in college football ever again. The Florida defense has their hands full enough with that, but they have carried a chip on their shoulder all season about their play from a year ago, even though it has improved dramatically. They still get no respect.

"The (Florida) offense is a high-powered offense," sophomore safety Ahmad Black said Saturday when addressing the media for the BCS Championship game. "We've got great personnel on the offense. Coach did a real good job of getting them lined up and getting them in the right spots. The scheme is a great scheme. But (the defense) gets overlooked because we've got great players (on offense). But, we've got a great defense, too. We just keep them out there and let the offense score, and that's how you win games."

According to sophomore cornerback Joe Haden it isn't a jealousy thing. The defense knows from practice just how good the offensive personnel is.

"Definitely the offense sometimes gets a lot of the looks," Haden said. "But I won't blame people for overlooking the defense sometimes, with Tim Tebow, (Louis) Murphy, Chris Rainey, (Jeff) Demps, all those dudes. I might overlook us sometimes, too. The thing is the coaching staff and the offense and all the players and stuff, we know what the defense is doing for the team because we're holding other teams down and the offense is scoring the points. As long as we know what we're doing inside our circle, I think we'll be all right."

Sophomore safety Major Wright is actually looking for a little more respect than they are getting. The Oklahoma game is definitely somewhere it can be earned, if it hasn't been already.

"It kind of hurts us to know that our offense ends up getting all the hype, we get no look at all," Wright said. "But we're the guys who…give them great field position on the field. Like (Ryan Stamper) said, we get them the least amount of points on the board. It kind of like shocks us to know we don't get so much look.

Turnovers could play a big part in the game against Oklahoma. The Sooners are No 1 in turnover margin in the country while the Gators are ranked second. It will be a tough draw against the Sooner offense, but the guys in the secondary know where the turnover battle starts.

"Forced turnovers start with the front seven, Stamp, Spikes, Cunningham, those guys kind of get it going," Wright said. "(They) kind of put pressure on them, make the quarterback get the ball out of his hand quicker."

"Our turnovers come a lot from the front seven," Black said. "They get pressure on the quarterback and cause interceptions back in the secondary. So I think getting better coverage on the wide receivers, getting coverage sacks, possibly making Sam Bradford fumble the ball a little bit could help. You know, one man holding him up and strip the ball out his hand."

The criticism for the defense's lack of success was warranted last season. The Gators had their worst pass defense ever and gave up more points than ever in 2007. They did a lot of work and took it to heart to become the SEC's top defense. Nowhere was the work needed more than in the secondary.

"I would say the dedication," Major Wright said what about what was different last year to this one. "The off-season we really dedicated ourselves to this football season, saying that we're not going to let one another down. We will not have another season like that, putting it all on the secondary. That will never happen again. A lot of guys…dedicated ourselves to watching more film, doing things with one another, communicating out there on the field, and just being around each other."

"When we played against Michigan last year, we felt like it was a whole lot of (the secondary's) fault," Haden said. "Last year we were all freshmen, really young, didn't really know what the college football was like. That was my first year playing corner, Major was a freshman, too, just like me, so we felt like in the off-season we knew we had to step it up if we was going to try to go farther than 9-4.

"The big thing was we had to work on our stuff, get in the film room, and one thing that helped the corners out was Janoris (Jenkins) came in and stepped up a whole lot. Coach Bedford came in and taught us different techniques. He was in the NFL, so he taught us different stuff to watch when you watch film like routes and snaps and stuff like that. So he helped us out a whole lot."

All this work was to get to this point, playing for a national title. The only problem is, they are playing the best offense in modern day football if you look at the statistics. That doesn't fall short on the players' ears.

"They are explosive and well coached," Black said. "I like their offense and how they run it with the quick tempo. I saw somewhere where they line up quick to try and see what coverages (they get). We are working on (disguising it)."

Like every other foe they have faced, there always seems something that this defense can use as motivation. They are actually using the Sooners high scoring offense as motivation for them to stop it.

"It is something we feed off of…them scoring 60 points a game," Wright said. "They are by far the best offense we've played this year. They are fast paced, they go. As soon as the ball is down, they are already on the ball. It kind of breaks the defense down and the coach doesn't get the call on the field. It's tough.

"You have a lot of games where a lot of guys are running on the field and off the field. Basically, you have to stay in that one package and let it go. With them changing personnel without changing guys out, it is kind of tough for us."

It is a veteran and talented offense versus a young, up and coming, and talented defense. It is the matchup that most are waiting to see in the biggest game of the year. One team believes they can't be stopped, the other has a chip on their shoulder because no one believes they can stop the Sooners. It should be a battle.


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