One-on-One with Carlos Dunlap

This is the fifth interview we've been able to bring you courtesy of our friends and my colleagues at Sun Sports TV/Fox Sports Florida. These interviews took place two weeks ago as the Gators were just beginning their preparations for the BCS Title Game with Oklahoma, but still provide some insight into what some Florida players are thinking and doing.

These interviews provided some of the content for the Gators' BCS Bowl Game Special on Fox Sports Florida. If you haven't seen it the show will air again on Jan 5 (6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.) and Jan 8 (2:30 p.m., 7 p.m.). I hope everyone will try to find a time that they can watch and enjoy it.

With that we offer up a conversation with sophomore defensive end Carlos Dunlap. The big man from North Carolina led the Gator defense with 9 QB sacks and 12 tackles for loss. He has been compared to former Gator great Jevon Kearse because of his freakish combination of size and speed. We'll see next year if he raises his game to even more closely resemble Kearse.

Dunlap has been a big part of Florida's tremendous improvement on defense this season. The Gators have given up about half the points they did a year ago and have specialized in takeaways with 33 including 24 interceptions. That defense faces a tremendous challenge with the total package of offensive skills that Oklahoma brings to South Florida.

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LV: A year ago the Gator defense was not all that good. This year you guys are among the best units in the country. How did that happen?

CD: Our motivation this year was to get back to the level of the '06 Gator defense. Last year we were young and didn't have any depth, but this year we have a rotation so that any time someone goes down there's a player just as good ready to go in.

LV: Was it just the depth, or was it something else?

CD: We had to develop the mindset and the trust that every man was going to follow his assignment and play just as hard as the man next to him.

LV: How did you see this defense come together over the course of the season?

CD: Game by game I strongly saw how our defense was coming together as an entire defense not the front seven or whatever. We all stick together on and off the field.

LV: What are your thoughts on Oklahoma?

CD: We know all about Sam Bradford and his Heisman and how he likes to pass a lot. We know he has a lot of passing yards (4,464) and touchdowns (48) on the season. But I have a lot of confidence in our pass defense and I'm going to help our pass defense by getting into his face. I believe our defensive line is going to make life easier for out DBs.

LV: What about dealing with an offense that scored over 700 points this season?

CD: As a defense we thrive on facing teams that come in as a number one offense. It just motivates us to prepare harder and watch more film to we can get schemes down pat. Then we know what they're going to run and when they're going to run it and we can stop it.

LV: Is Georgia a team that's somewhat similar to Oklahoma in that they had just about all the weapons and you showed you could handle them?

CD: Yeah, Georgia came in here as the number one offense in the SEC and Spikes laid a big hit on them right away and our defense came out on top.

LV: Do you look for the opportunity to make a similar hit in this game to try and set the tone from the very beginning?

CD: That's the mindset the whole defense has. If we can make the big hit early in the game we can get the ball four our offense and let them do what they can do.

LV: Oklahoma has a big strong offensive line. Do they measure up to the best lines you've seen this year?

CD: We practice against our offensive line every day and practicing against them all year has helped us to get ready for all the other offensive lines we've played throughout the year. Just being in the Sec has prepared us for offensive lines like theirs.

Dunlap and his teammates may have a hard time getting to San Bradford because the Oklahoma scheme doesn't leave him deep n the pocket all that often. It will be interesting to see how tight Florida chooses to play on the outside, because tight outside coverage is a key to forcing Bradford to hold the ball longer and will give the defensive line a chance to apply pressure. Of course that's a strategy that also opens up more opportunities for big plays for one of the most big-play oriented offenses I've ever seen.


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