Florida Defensive Preview

Led by sophomore linebacker Brandon Siler, Florida ranks third in the nation in turnover margin with a plus eighteen. Siler has a keen understanding of turnovers, as he has picked up seven of the Gators' fifteen fumble recoveries this year.

Defensive Line

There is no better story on the Florida defense than that of reserve defensive end Jarvis Moss. The six-foot six All-American had pain in his lower abdomen and struggled to put on weight since his arrival from Texas. He weighed just 218 pounds this past spring, hardly the necessary weight to compete in the rough and tumble Southeastern Conference.

A series of tests failed to turn up anything positive that might solve his problem. Doctors were baffled, and Moss was disillusioned with the process and football. As the tests continued, Moss painfully contemplated quitting football. Finally, a test revealed something bizarre. Moss had a staph infection in his pelvic bone. He apparently contracted the infection after being given a cortisone shot while playing high school ball in Denton, Texas.

Moss immediately went on antibiotics. Florida trainers began pumping nutrients into him and Moss was actively working out and had regained a healthy appetite. He grew to 240 pounds in six weeks.

Moss did not see action in Florida's opener against Wyoming. In fact, he played little in the Gators next two games. However, he has coming on strong. Moss has recorded 23 tackles, including 11 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He has also forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, and broken up two passes. Moss is super quick with tremendous speed. He also has plenty of intensity, probably pent up frustration for the many months in which he suffered through the pain of the staph infection. He is a future star, who is quickly making his presence known.

It was thought he Florida defense received a tremendous boost with the return of defensive end Ray McDonald. RayMac as he is affectionately known throughout Gator Country injured his knee in the Tennessee game. He didn't start the Georgia game, but played a key role making three tackles coming off of the bench. In fact, McDonald graded out as a champion in Meyer's system. In subsequent games, he not played effectively, still bothered by a knee problem.

When McDonald went down, the Gators simply dropped former defensive end Joe Cohen down at defensive tackle. A fullback in 2003, Cohen is playing the best football of his defensive career. He attributes part of his success to the coaching staff who introduced him to new techniques for getting off of the blocks and making plays. He picked off a pass against LSU and had a limited return, proving that his days as a running back are indeed over. Cohen has recorded 16 tackles, four tackles for loss, and a quarterback sack.

Tackles
#93 Steven Harris 6-4 281 Jr. 2L Miami
#44 Marcus Thomas 6-3 285 Jr. 2L Jacksonville

#98 Clint McMillan 6-1 282 So. 1L Oviedo
#99 Lutrell Alford 6-2 290 So. Tr Gainesville

Ends
#57 Jeremy Mincey 6-4 265 Sr. 1L Statesboro, Ga
#20 Joe Cohen 6-3 285 Jr. 2L Belle Glade
#94 Jarvis Moss 6-6 245 So. Sq. Denton, Tx.

#91 Derrick Harvey 6-4 260 Fr. Sq. Greenbelt, Md.

Jacksonville native Marcus Thomas is playing the best football of his Florida career. Thomas had totaled six tackles against Georgia, including one for a loss when the ‘Dawgs had driven inside the Florida twenty yard line. He also graded out champion. On the season, he has recorded 41 tackles, including 9.5 for loss, three sacks, one forced fumble, and three quarterback hurries. He has also blocked two kicks. Thomas has a terrific first step and has the lateral speed loved by defensive coordinators.

Defensive end Jeremy Mincey has been one of Florida's defensive catalysts. He is second on the squad in tackles (61) and tackles for loss (10.5). Mincey also has 3.5 sacks and seven quarterback hurries. The senior was named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Lineman of the Week following the win over Georgia as he racked up seven tackles, a tackle for loss, and quarterback pressure, and pass knocked down. He has the speed, power, and quickness to make things happen.

Defensive tackle Steven Harris has 16 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. Harris began his career at Florida as a defensive end, where he has played the past two seasons. Harris has a pretty good first step and pursues well laterally. He dropped down last spring and continues to gain experience.

Reserve defensive end Derrick Harvey came to Florida as the top defensive prospect on the East Coast. Harvey has good quickness, speed, and he appears to be gaining some much needed on the job training. He had five tackles, including a tackle for loss and sack.

Injuries: Ray McDonald (knee)

Analysis: The Gators have held opponents to 97.7 yards rushing per game. Florida had added only one sack in the past two games, before rocking Florida State with five.. The gators struggled (like most teams) to bring down physical quarterbacks Joe Tereshinski (Georgia) and Jay Cutler (Vanderbilt. Drew Tate provides an interesting challenge for the Gators. Expect Jarvis Moss to play plenty, trying to keep Tate corralled.

Marcus Thomas has played an instrumental role in plugging the middle and stopping the run. Without him, the Gators might find shutting the run down more difficult. Florida has to keep Iowa's running game in the garage, while keeping Tate from beating them through the air.

Linebackers

Florida middle linebacker Brandon Siler has been a tremendous blessing since his arrival from Orlando last season. He stepped up for the injured Channing Crowder and earned the national Freshman Defensive Player of the Year award.

Siler hasn't suffered a sophomore slump. Siler leads the conference in fumbles recovered with seven. He is third on team in tackles (58). He has also recorded 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. He also has seven quarterback hurries.

To say that Siler has a nose for the football is an absolute fact. He has recovered an NCAA best six fumbles this year. Siler has it all- size, speed, quickness, and he packs a punch when he arrives on the scene.

He can also cover. Siler has broken up four passes and has one interception this season. He also earned champion status for his play against Georgia.

#40 Brandon Siler 6-2 239 So. 1L Orlando
#30 Earl Everett 6-2 231 Jr. 2L Webster
#47 Todd McCullough 6-5 233 Sr. 3L Jacksonville

Weakside linebacker Earl Everett is one of the most underrated linebackers in the conference. Everett has tremendous instincts which blend perfectly with his quickness and speed. He too packs a wallop. He led the Gators with 67 tackles. Everett also has 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He had a career high 14 tackles against LSU.

Everett has been very effective in coverage as well. He is tied for the team lead with two interceptions and has forced a fumble. Everett knocked down two Cutler passes last weekend. Strongside linebacker Todd McCullough is a Jacksonville native, who played at the legendary Bolles School. He has played (as a true freshman reserve) under Steve Spurrier, then under Ron Zook one year later, and now Urban Meyer. There is not much that McCullough hasn't seen in his years in the SEC. He missed the 2003 season due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. McCullough has 27 tackles, two tackles for loss, and an interception this season.

Injuries: Reserve linebacker Jon Demps will miss the remainder of the season due to a knee injury.

Analysis: Florida has two outstanding linebackers in Siler and Everett, but no quality depth. Think that I'm kidding? Florida has just four scholarship linebackers on the active list. Keeping these guys healthy is a must. True freshman Jon Demps was getting some work as a reserve at the MIKE and had been improving, until he was lost to a knee injury. Brandon Siler has returned from a knee and ankle injury and now Earl Everett is recovering from a thigh injury.

One of the reasons the Gators are seventh in the nation in total defense is because of Siler and Everett's ability to play the run and pass so well equally.

Secondary

Florida's corners have played very well this season. Each of the four starters (Vernell Brown, Dee Webb, Reggie Nelson, and Jarvis Herring) earned champion status for their play against Georgia. The loss of Vernell Brown late in the season was huge for the Gators. He was Florida's best cover corner. Despite his small stature, he blanketed taller receivers. Brown led all defensive backs with 34 tackles, including 3.5 behind the line of scrimmage

Dee Webb is Florida's most experienced corner. He did play pretty well against Jay Culter and Vanderbilt. Webb was caught looking too long in the backfield in zone situations. He is an outstanding talent who could be well served by playing one more year. He is looking into his draft status. One knock on Webb is that he has had several sure interceptions go through his hands. Webb has broken up a team high 12 passes this season, while picking just one. Webb has 36 tackles on the year. He is also a phenomenal special teams player.

Cornerbacks
#15 Dee Webb 5-11 190 Jr. 3L Jacksonville
#16 Vernell Brown 5-8 165 Sr. 2L Gainesville
#22 Reggie Lewis 5-10 195 Jr. 2L Jacksonville
#4 Avery Atkins 5-11 189 Fr. HS Daytona Beach

Safeties
#46 Jarvis Herring 5-11 205 Sr. 3L Live Oak
#3 Kyle Jackson 6-1 200 So. 1L Jacksonville

#19 Tony Joiner 5-11 200 So. 1L Haines City
#49 Terrance Holmes 5-11 202 Jr. 2L Glassboro, NJ

The ever emerging Reggie Nelson will be out against Iowa. Nelson started at free safety for the first time against Georgia and made the most of his time. He had been a big play guy since he was at Palm Bay High School in Melbourne. I felt that Nelson was the best overall player in The Sunshine State three years ago and, based on his early season play, deserved more than a role in the Florida nickel and dime packages.

Nelson had 46 tackles, including four tackles for loss and finished second on the team with four sacks. He recorded seven tackles against Georgia and his first interception in his first start of the season. He has also forced a fumble on a punt and recovered one as well. He is the ultimate playmaker. He will be missed by the Gators both on defense and special teams.

Cornerbacks Reggie Lewis and Avery Atkins hadn't seen a lot of playing time for the Gators, until the injury to Vernell Brown forced them into action. Lewis responded by making the play that sealing Florida's victory against Vanderbilt.

One year ago, Atkins was an All-American at Daytona Beach Mainland High School. He was well coached and came to Florida with an edge. Atkins has tremendous physical talents that make him the odds on favorite to occupy one of the corner slots next season.

Strong safety Jarvis Herring suffered a quad contusion against Georgia as well. Herring has 56 tackles, including three sacks, two tackles for loss, and a pair of interceptions. He was named the SEC Defensive Backfield Player of the Week following his stellar play against Florida State. Herring is one of the inspirational leaders on the squad.

Kyle Jackson had a tremendous freshman campaign. Coming into the season, he and Herring were thought to combine for one of the top safety tandems in the conference. Jackson been the Florida starter at free safety, but struggled at times early this season to get over against Alabama and LSU. Because of the numerous injuries he did play against Vanderbilt, but again was slow getting over in zone coverage. Jackson will start against the Hawkeyes for the injured Reggie Nelson. I would expect Iowa to test Jackson early. He is a critical element for the Gators defense.

Injuries: Starting cornerback Vernell Brown (ankle). Reserve Nick Brooks injured his knee and is out for the year. Jarvis Herring (quad contusion).

Analysis: Why so many starters listed in bold? Because you'll see each and every one of them in this game. Nobody knows how long Brown will be able to go coming off of a broken leg. It's doubtful it will be that long.

Florida is third in the nation in turnover margin with a +18. Prior to the Vanderbilt game the Gators were third in the SEC in pass defense, giving up just 167 yards per game. Jay Cutler carved them up and almost pulled off the upset in the process. A secondary that had given up too many big plays against Alabama and LSU has not yielded many since.

The loss of Vernell Brown and nagging injuries to key defensive personnel makes this one even more difficult. Freshman Avery Atkins is the player to look out for here. He is an outstanding talent and a very coachable young man.>/i>


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