Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, left, takes a hit from Florida linebacker Jonathan Greenard after throwing a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Gators Defense Forming New Identity

The week ahead of the Tennessee and Florida game brought on more questions than expectations for the entire team. The quarterback spot drew the most questions.

But Florida’s defense answered every question and expectation possible in Saturday’s performance.

Was the second week in a row sans defensive end Jabari Zuniga and defensive back CJ Henderson going to bring on a nailbiter like Kentucky?

Not quite.

Assembling the pieces

A defense that heavily relied on Zuniga didn’t seem to falter in his absence. Zuniga was ruled out for another week with an ankle injury. His partner-in-crime, Jonathan Greenard, continued to hold it down on the defensive line. With a forced fumble, a sack, three pass breakups and four tackles, Greenard is undeniably an emerging leader on the defense. Pressure from Greenard made Tennessee’s offensive line crumble almost instantaneously, especially in moments like the forced fumble.

For Greenard, the moment felt quite surreal.

But the productivity didn’t end there. The tenacity of the defensive line allowed Florida’s secondary to profit beside them.

Trey Dean, Marco Wilson and Amari Burney all reminded college football where the real “DBU” is. Burney proved to be a huge role player in containing Tennessee, where he collected five tackles and an interception. These interceptions waned on Tennessee’s confidence in an already brutal game; neither quarterbacks Jarret Guarantano nor Brian Maurer threw for a touchdown, only combining for three interceptions.

For Dean and Wilson, neither of whom had seen much in Florida’s past two games, the contest against Tennessee served as a confidence booster for the starters, even without leading defensive back CJ Henderson.

Sophomore Dean is a leader among the younger defensive backs. Moments like his first quarter interception help to shape his guidance toward younger defensive backs.

The SEC grind

Florida’s defense proved to be a force to reckon with in the Tennessee game. But the SEC play is only slated to get tougher, with Auburn, LSU and Georgia still on the schedule. But if the defense can continue to replicate the decimation similar to the one unloaded on Tennessee, the sky is the limit for the Gators.

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