Florida’s Hopes Rest with Defense
By Matthew Osborne
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Fresh off of the program’s worst season since 1987, Will Muschamp is hoping that his talented defense can spearhead Florida’s return to SEC prominence.
When most people think of the Florida Gators’ two most recent national championship (2006 and 2008), the first thought that pops into their head is a dynamic offense led by head coach Urban Meyer and Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow.
What many casual fans fail to realize, however, is that both of Gators’ BCS national titles were achieved thanks in large part to tenacious defensive units.
Fresh off of the program’s worst season since 1987, head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are hoping that their talented assembly of defensive players can spearhead Florida’s return to national prominence in 2012.
A quick glance at last year’s defensive statistics reveals that there is certainly reason to believe that the Gators could have a dominant defense this fall. In Quinn’s first season in Gainesville, the Gators finished t-20th in the nation in scoring defense (20.3 ppg), 40th in rushing defense (132.7 ypg) and t-6th in pass defense (166.8 ypg).
While those are solid defensive statistics, Quinn knows that his unit could have been even more productive if they would have been able to force more turnovers. Although the Gators finished the season with a top 20 defense, Florida was only able to register 14 takeaways in 13 games, which ranked them as one of the worst teams in the nation in turnovers forced.
In particular, Quinn would have liked to see his outstanding young collection of secondary players come up with more interceptions last season. Despite being one of the best teams in the country defending against the pass, the Gators picked off just eight passes last season.
Many pundits are quick to disregard the Gators as legitimate SEC East contenders this fall due to many of the questions on offense, but perhaps those experts should take a longer look at what the Gators have coming back on defense. Florida returns 10 starters from last year’s unit, and those players will be expected to perform at an even higher level in year number two under Dan Quinn.
The Gators are staring down the barrel of an unenviable schedule, but this is a team that is hoping to surprise the experts this fall. There are still many questions yet to be answered on the offensive side of the ball, but the defense is set to be one of the top units in the country.