Following a bye week that allowed the Florida Gators (4-3, 3-2 SEC) to rest their spirits and refocus on their next opponent, Gators Defensive Coordinator DJ Durkin met with the media Wednesday to talk about a disappointing effort against Missouri and look ahead to Saturday’s opponent Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC).
The Gators’ defense couldn’t have been prepared for the freshman-led Missouri offense that embarrassed them to a tune of 500 yards and 36 points. Though the Gators did hold Missouri to five field goals (three of which came in the red zone), Maty Mauk and the Tigers moved the ball effectively on Florida, netting 24 first downs.
But Durkin’s expecting a bounceback.
“What makes me confident it won’t happen again? The way our guys practiced, the way they prepare,” Durkin said when asked why he thinks his defense won’t get shredded this weekend. “I think we’ve got guys with great character and guys that are really good football players. Their response these past two weeks and how they’re practicing and preparing tells me that they’re ready to move on and that they know what it takes and what they need to do.”
When the Florida-Georgia rivalry renews at EverBank Field in Jacksonville at 3:30 Saturday afternoon, the Gators’ defense will have their eyes on all-time SEC career passing leader Aaron Murray. Though Georgia is 2-1 against Florida while Murray’s been a starter, individually he has struggled against the Gators (47% completion rate, 632 yards, 6 TDs to 7 INTs in 3 games against Florida). Despite the numbers, Durkin was quick to heap praise on Murray.
“He can make all the throws, obviously a very talented passer. He can also beat you running the ball, too,” Durkin said. “He’s got a great command of that offense. He’s been playing there for four years with the same staff… I think he know’s that offense probably as well as that coaching staff does and it shows when you watch it on tape.”
When pressed on what they’ll do to defend Murray, Durkin was coy, but added: “We try to give many different looks and not just sit in one thing or show him what we’re gonna be in, because he’s talented enough that when you do that he’s gonna make you pay.”
Florida will get a boost with Ronald Powell (ankle) returning to the lineup. Powell missed the Missouri game, and Durkin says he’s proud of how his pass-rusher deals with his rehab process.
“Ronald’s a guy whose dealt with injuries before, he always handles them really well in terms of, he works really hard at it, he’s getting treatment and doing everything he’s supposed to do to get healthy.”
And if Powell gets to Murray on Saturday, chances are Durkin will be proud of his production, too.