Austin Settling into New Role

From the first time he spoke with the media after moving to Gainesville, Teryl Austin knew the importance of being himself. Former defensive coordinator Charlie Strong left big shoes to fill, but Austin couldn't control that. He could only coach the way he knew and bring knowledge to the Florida staff that made him a successful NFL coach.

"I can't compare myself to Charlie," Austin said. "He was here for a long time and did a great job here. I said the first time I was here that I can only be me. I'm going to give the University of Florida everything I've got."

Two veteran coaches have helped through Austin's transition to being Florida defensive coordinator. Defensive line coach Dan McCarney and safeties coach Chuck Heater have plenty of coaching experience, and they haven't been scared to share.

The two took Austin under their wings until he was able to catch his breath in Gainesville. Once that happened, he didn't need much help. But the two veteran assistants are always there if he needs some guidance.

"They've both been through the fire," Austin said. "There are some different things we all bring. The last thing we wanted was for one guy to come in and say he's changing everything. At the end of the day, it's about what can our guys do and what can they do well?

"We merged on that together with no egos in the room. The bottom line is we want to do what's best for our team. Just because I did some things different somewhere else doesn't make it right. It's all about what is right for this team, this year."

Austin's secondaries are known for one thing. They make plays on the football, often ending up in interceptions. They attack the football and play aggressive. Players that suit up for him won't play tentative, and if they do, they won't see the field.

He coaches his players to make plays. It's a concept that fits perfectly with the playmaking mindset that Urban Meyer preaches to the offense. In the end, Austin believes the takeaways his secondaries come up with have more to do with quality players on his team.

"A lot of it is good players," Austin said. "You get good players, teach them and have them feel confident in what they're doing. That's how it happens. It's no magic formula. I'm not going to say it's me. I've had a lot of good guys over the years."

In order to force bad passes for the Florida secondary to make plays on, the pass rush must be strong. The Gators lost their starting defensive ends from last season and don't have a proven pass rusher on the roster.

"Our guys are going to get it done," Austin said quickly but confident.

Janoris Jenkins is likely the most secure starter on the defense, but it's the second cornerback that is still up in the air. Austin listed Moses Jenkins and Jeremy Brown as the top two candidates for the job right now.

Brown looks to be the favorite for the job, but his health will be monitored closely. He hasn't seen the field in the two years of his Florida career because of a back injury, but he has responded well in offseason workouts.

"Right now, it's full speed ahead with Jeremy," Austin said. "We're really pleased with where he is. He's a great kid who works his tail off. We're going to keep our fingers crossed and hope he comes out of this okay."

The defensive line will have five freshmen this season, but the important questions that need to be answered come in the veteran players. Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders and Brandon Antwine are coming off injury-plagued season, but the three have participated fully in practice, according to Austin.

The freshmen are showing signs early, but they must continue to improve to see the field. Once the team puts pads on Wednesday, the coaches will have a better gauge of their ability to play this season.

"There are a lot of things they have to learn to be college football players, but we're confident they're going to learn it to get going," Austin said. "They have an adjustment to make. The big thing they have to get used to is the speed of what we're doing and how we're doing what we're doing."

The other key question on the defense comes at middle linebacker. Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic are in a tight race through fall camp to be the starter, but both players will be on the field plenty this season.

"I don't know if anyone is leading," Austin said. "Jelani and Jon are both doing well, and they're both going to play for us. Whoever starts is still to be determined. Both of those guys are going to be very good players for us."

The two players offer different skill sets at middle linebacker, and that could eventually work them into splitting reps at the position depending on the situation.

"Jelani is all about speed," Austin said. "He sees the ball and goes and gets it. Jon brings you some speed, but he's that big body that can sit down on some fullbacks. They're the different types of players, but each type can get the job done."
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