Mounting Gator Injuries Bring Questions

College Football News
Posted Aug 17, 2008

An inexperienced secondary pulls linebackers out to help cover receiver's - placing a greater burden on the squad's defensive front gap containment.

By: BE Coleman

Florida's Urban Meyer knew coming into August that his offense only needed to be brushed off with the likes of QB Tim Tebow, speedsters Percy Harvin, Brandon James coming back. The returning front O-Line allowed the playmakers to lead the SEC in scoring at 42.5 points per game in 2007.

Meyer's primary coaching focus was on his defense and getting it back into the form that carried Florida to the national title in 2006. In order to do that, players have to participate at full speed – full impact in practice, with that brings the most dreaded aspect of fall camp – injuries.

The Gators bad luck began in July when it was announced both starting Safeties in Dorian Munroe from Miami and John Curtis from Cocoa Beach would be out for the season with torn ACL's.

Their loss only made things worse for the Gators pass defense that finished up 2007 at 98th in the nation giving up 258.54 yards per game, would now feature backup players with limited experience.

Before it could get better, it got worse -- much worse during the second week of practice as linebacker Brendan Beal tore his ACL. Meyer had to sideline three of his starters on defense for the season, all were expected contributors.

While losing one player would be significant on a defensive secondary that can only look up from the bottom of SEC, losing three players brings major implications for the Gator coaching staff.

An inexperienced secondary pulls linebackers out to help cover receiver's that places a greater burden on the squad's defensive front. While the Gator D-Line finished first in the conference against the rush last season; the outlook will certainly be much different with these injuries -- to these specific players.

Meyer said he is looking for LB Brandon Spikes to be his leader on defense just as Tebow is on the offense. Spikes a first team ALL SEC selection finished last season with 131 tackles.

Spikes won't be able to guard the gaps exactly like he did last season with the current situation as it presents itself. Players that Meyer and D-Secondary Coach Chuck Heater had slated in the depth chart as number two's, will now play in the number one slot.

Players that were third on the depth chart suddenly find themselves as the next line of defense in the two's spot. While there is talent at Florida, Meyer will quickly tell you that it all has to have game time experience to stop the big play capability of rival passing attacks.

The Gators finished 07 in the seventh place in the conference in total defense behind LSU, Auburn, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Alabama. Meyer's fast strike offense further complicates the situation by placing the defensive secondary on the field for greater lengths of time. Scoring fast works great; as long as the defense are veterans who can play for longer lengths of time and not give up plays that keep the offense sidelined.

Sophomore WR Justin Williams has been shifted over to Safety to provide relief. He brought some highly sought after relief for Meyer during the team's last scrimmage by picking off two passes.

Now, it is a matter of Heater of developing him and Williams himself finding his confidence before SEC level of play hits the schedule. The Gators now have five returning starters on the defense to begin the season instead of eight.

Little is expected of the season opener at home with Hawaii, a home game with Miami might see the Cane's make it interesting before Tebow's talent puts the game out of reach. The first major test will come against Tennessee who returns the one of the conferences top receiving units for the SEC's first big game of the season.

The Gators defense suffered some growing pains last season and it appears there is going to be some more of that in the secondary for 2008.

Archived CFN Stories:

SEC – CBS Sports Ink 15 Year Deal, 8-17-08
SEC East Scrimmages - Injury Glance, 8-12-08
Blog...The SEC Weekly Digest, 8-7-08
Blog ... Tennessee Opens Practices, 8-4-08
Blog ... Georgia's Richt Wants To Quell Hype, 8-4-08
Blog...Spurrier 100% Southern Fried , 8-2-08
Blog ... The SEC Weekly Digest, 7-27-2008
Blog...Fulmer Says "It's All Crap!" , 7-25-2008
Blog ... Fulmer Mystery Subpoena Solved, 7-24-2008
Blog... LSU – Calm Before The Storm, 7-23-2008
Blog...Tebow Mania Begins Now, 7-23-2008
Blog...Mississippi State Uprising?, 7-23-2008
SEC Coaches Tap Seven Players, 7-21-2008
Blog - The SEC Weekly Digest, 7-12-2008
Who Is In Charge Of The Zoo?, 7-10-2008
SEC Running Backs Are Running Strong, 7-1-2008
Blog ... Tennessee Top 10 Program Wins, 6-22-2008
Nine Conference Games Makes BCS Sense, 6-10-2008

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