Defensive intensity helping production

The defensive improvement from last year to the first five games of this year has been exponential for the Gators. The unit hasn't allowed a touchdown in over nine quarters and has become one of the top defenses in the SEC. The one thing that hasn't changed from last year is the energy. Even while struggling in 2011, the Gators were always energetic on defense. It's the same case this year.

As the defense plays better, the energy increases. As the defense made its biggest statement of the year on Saturday by holding LSU to two field goals, the intensity on the field increased.

It's hard to pick out just one play for fueling the team.

"Yeah I think we probably have more than one," Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said with a laugh. "I think we certainly count on some energy from Dominique Easley. He's one that provides a lot of toughness, effort, finish and that kind of attitude for us."

Easley is the ringleader on the defensive line, using his dance moves to get the entire defense excited. Each unit has their own player that provides the energy. At linebacker, it's Lerentee McCray. In the secondary, it's Matt Elam.

"I think that carries into the meeting rooms and out onto the field," Quinn said. "I think when those guys are close together, usually that carries over into meetings and out on the field where they know they don't want to let one another down. That is as important as anything."

It's part of the type of defense the Gators have become. There isn't one player the unit depends on. The strong performances of Elam, McCray, Sharrif Floyd and others in recent weeks have propelled the unit to one of the best in the conference and the country, but there isn't a player they must have on the field to be successful.

That's shown through the depth.

The Gators played 23 different players on the defensive side of the ball on Saturday. They've developed younger players while still earning rest for the starters, but it develops a mentality that has every player taking ownership.

"I think the best player on our defense is our defense," Quinn recalled saying to the defense. "We don't need one guy to feel like, ‘Man, if he doesn't do it, we're not going to make it.'"

Part of that feeling comes naturally from the second year in the defensive scheme. Players aren't thinking much on the field, but in this case, that's a good thing. Last year, players were overwhelmed with assignments. They wanted to make sure they were in the right place on the field and in position to make the play.

Now, players are letting their athleticism take over. It's allowing them to play better and faster, but still be in position because they know their assignments.

"When you have some experience in the system, that helps you because the first time through it's, ‘What is my assignment exactly? I've got to make sure I carry that out,'" Quinn said. "Guys will have a bigger understanding of knowing what their job is and what are some things that could happen based on an offensive set or a split of a wide receiver. When you're able to do that, it certainly adds another level of how you play and it's good to hear him say that."

It's also starting to produce the results that the defensive coaches have wanted since coming to Gainesville. The Gators didn't produce enough turnovers to make them happy in 2011, despite coach Will Muschamp saying that the defensive coaches were teaching it the same way as they did when Muschamp's defense at Texas led the country in turnovers.

After not having three turnovers in any of the first 16 games under Muschamp, the Gators have done just that in back-to-back games against Kentucky and LSU.

"We make a big emphasis on it," Quinn said. "We think it helps in?winning, so that's the reason we do it and why we make a big emphasis on it. We talk about it every day in practice and we try?to return them when we get them every day in practice. We put it up the?next day in the meeting room. We try to show as many clips as we can.

"At?the end of the day, I think they understand the importance of it that it's?not just something that's going to happen if you don't work at it."


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