Defensive Coaches Round Up

The Florida Gators' defensive coaches met with the media this week and talked on a variety of subjects. With the big game at Georgia, the Bulldogs, and certainly receiver A.J. Green were the main topic of conversation with the group. The Gators have the top ranked defense in the SEC and are a huge part of the undefeated season and the No. 1 ranking they have at this time.

For defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, one good sign for his defense in recent weeks was the reemergence of linebacker Dustin Doe. The senior from Live Oak was suspended for the spring and missed the first game also because of the suspension. He didn't get into games much until recently with injuries to starting linebacker Brandon Spikes.

"He's playing well and it's good that he is back and started last week and played well, Strong said of Doe.


Dustin Doe making a comeback
Strong spent a great deal of time in the offseason making sure Doe got his act together.

"Just handle your business, and be a part of this football team," Strong told Doe. "You are a senior and have been here a while, so it is time to conduct yourself in the right way."

Doe had a great play last weekend against Mississippi State but almost watched the end result of the play slip away. He intercepted a pass and ran to the end zone. Almost to the goal line, Doe seemed to fumble the ball while showboating a bit to the score. His hand was hit before he crossed the line and lucky for him the evidence was inconclusive as to whether he had crossed the line with possession or it could have been a turnover.

"I had some pretty good words for him," Strong said of the showboating. "He understood it and knew where I was coming from."

The Gators face one of the most impressive players in all of college football this week with receiver A.J. Green of the Bulldogs. They know they have their hands full with the 6-4, 207 pound sophomore who seemingly does everything you would want from a big receiver.

"He is a big receiver and very physical," Strong said. "We have two corners we feel good about and it's going to be interesting to see the match up player. He is a great player probably he and Julio Jones are the best two receivers in the conference."

But Strong won't let his guys forget what their number one goal is every week when they face a team.

"What is more important is the whole defense is going to have to play well," he said. "We know who we are going against and everyone is going to have to take care of their responsibility and rally to the football."

"We always want to make a team one dimensional we want to go into each game stopping the run. They have been playing with three backs, it is critical that we don't let them get that running game going."

The Georgia game is setting up to be the first game all year where the top four defensive tackles for the Gators will be healthy and able to contribute at the top of their game. Back from injury are starters Jaye Howard and Lawrence Marsh. Howard has missed a couple of games and Marsh basically the whole season recovering from a high ankle sprain. In their place Terron Sanders and Omar Hunter have played very well and it is not certain who will start at the two positions on Saturday.

"It is good to have those guys back," Strong said. "We get to go play with Marsh and Jaye Howard. Last week Omar and Sanders played the whole game for us and now we can get a rotation going and get some depth.


Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong
Hunter came into last season ballyhooed as someone that would be a difference maker as a true freshman. Strong pointed out that there were really too many unrealistic explanations on a player that is playing extremely well for someone only in his redshirt freshman season on campus.

"The thing that happened to Omar is him coming out of high school with all these expectations," Strong said of the star lineman from Georgia. "You come to college and every offensive and defensive linemen you are going against are guys that have been here four and five years, you aren't as strong and aren't ready to go play. Now, he's been in the program and been able to play, it has really helped him."

Going against much older and more experienced players in practice has helped Omar a great deal in preparing for this season.

"One is the age difference and then Omar going against the Pounceys and Carl Johnson," Strong said. "It is unrealistic to think as a freshman that he is going to go in there and dominate them."

Strong will also welcome back middle linebacker Brandon Spikes this week. Ryan Stamper played very well in the middle for Spikes while he missed a couple of games with a groin injury, but Strong is happy to have his team leader back.

"Our guys are really comfortable with Stamper," strong said. "He played so well last week. They know if Spikes isn't there that we always have Stamp. The thing about Spikes is that he brings energy and plays so well and gets everyone else to play well. I think when he jumps out there Saturday he will jump out there with a lot of energy and be ready to play."

Spikes' injuries are ones that usually take a while to heal, but Strong says he is able to understand his body and what he can and cannot do.

"He had the Achilles problem and the groin problem, but Spikes is mature enough to handle those situations," Strong said.

He loves the festive atmosphere of the game in Jacksonville this week and Strong said it is an amazing sight crossing one of the bridges in Jacksonville and seeing all the masses of people there for the game and all of the bridges lined up with even more folks heading to the game.

"I tell our kids all the time, you don't know how important this game is until you get on top of that bridge," he said. "Once you see that you will know how important this game is."

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Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney has been waiting a long time to get Lawrence Marsh back in the fold. After several weeks of close calls and possibilities of playing significant time, they finally told him just to rest a couple of weeks and now last years starter at nose tackle is ready to go.

"It is a long time coming," McCarney said. "We haven't gotten anything out of Lawrence all year so it will be great to get him and Jaye Howard back. He tried to come back to practice about a dozen times and just limped around, so we just shut it down, and he really looked good tonight (Tuesday).

McCarney also had some nice words for Georgia native Omar Hunter who has been playing in place of Marsh all season.


Omar Hunter having a breakout season
"Hunter is playing really well," McCarney said. "He has stepped up and played good football for us in the last two weeks. He just missed the champions club last week not for lack of effort, his effort is as good as any nose guard since I've been here. I'd like to see him make a couple to three more plays, but he has really stepped up. Now we are building depth for this year and the future with the way he played."

Two more linemen are on the mend. One is definitely out in nose Brandon Antwine and the other is salty veteran junior end/tackle Justin Trattou who McCarney won't be surprised if he actually played way ahead of schedule given his injury.

"Antwine, I don't think he will play this week, his shoulder is hurt again," McCarney said. "Trattou they said four to six weeks, and he came out and got a little individual work tonight. So, don't ever sell that guy short. I don't know if he will be ready this week, but he is way ahead of the schedule because of mental toughness and is a quick healer."

McCarney has also gotten a new push from junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap came into the season with a ton of accolades and has been slow to get off the block. It may have been a mid-season talk that got him going.

"He has the ability, talent, and experience," McCarney said of Dunlap being a dominant player. " I told him he has his dreams and goals and what he needs to accomplish and he needs to start playing that way. That means practicing better. He did that in the last couple of weeks and I think he will play that way on Saturday."

With so many linemen to deal with, McCarney said it usually takes different buttons to push for the lights to come on for these guys.

"Everyone is different, you can't treat them all the same," he said. "There are different personalities inside the helmets. He has to understand that this is not good enough, he is capable of doing this, and this is what he has to do and do it more often. If he does that, we have a chance to have a dominant defensive end out there. He was a dominant football player on the field Saturday (against Mississippi State). Any time you have three sacks, disrupts, tip a pass for an interception, and some of the athletic and effort plays he had was impressive.

This game this week with Georgia is a big time thing for the Gators and the Bulldogs. A lot of it rests around perceptions of the programs and inevitably recruiting.


He wants to be the next great back at UGA.
"It is one of the great rivalries we all know that," McCarney said. "Georgia is down here a lot, we are up there a lot (in recruiting). If we are able to win more than they win, then hopefully this is a better program. We are getting the edge and winning more of those games. We are 13-1 in rivalry games, find someone that has done a better job than that and gets the best out of his team."

Omar Hunter, Lawrence Marsh, and Jermaine Cunningham have all been multiple game starters for the Gators and all hail from the state of Georgia. There is no doubt how the program is received in that state has gone a long way in recruiting for the Gators.

"It is a big deal and those guys are real excited to come play in this game," McCarney said. "Hopefully we will get some more guys out of Georgia to come play for Florida."

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Chuck Heater is the assistant defensive coordinator and coaches the secondary at Florida. With all of the success the Gators have had over the years, the price is sometimes a loft of pressure and expectations on his guys. According to Heater, he and his troops just play through the pressure and are worried about each play and just getting better.

"I am not sure that there is that much thought given to it," Heater said. "Every week is a grind, there is so much focus on getting your job done. Every day is unique and presents it's own challenge."

According to Heater, there is a measure of fun and relief whenever you win, especially when winning each game means so much.


Major Wright
"Yes they are fun, you can't forget those," Heater says of the victories. "It's bad days when you don't win. It is also a relief, when you go on the road, you know it's going to be a battle. The games haven't been easy."

His main responsibilities are for the safeties and Major Wright, Ahmad Black, and Will Hill have all played well for the most part. They don't seem to be succumbing to any pressure.

"I can only speak for our defensive guys," Heater said. "I think they are out there having fun, flying around, we are coaching hard and trying to get better. The seventh game of the season is (just that) and the best teams at the end of the season are the ones that have improved. At the end of the year someone is getting better and if you aren't getting better as a player you aren't going to be where you need to be."

Heater knows his secondary has its hands full with A.J. Green this week.

"He is an aggressive player to the ball," he said. "He attacks the ball and jumped over our heads to get the ball last year. He can run and open it up and go. He is what you want in a wide receiver."

As good as he is, the Gators are not going to shy away from man defense with green. Florida has two big time corners in Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins and asks those two to go on an island sometimes.

"At times, that is the way we play defense," Heater said. "Sometimes they are in a position they have to play man-to-man."


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