Not only was Florida unable to play football for over two weeks because of a coronavirus outbreak, but they’ve struggled to put together an effective defensive unit. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s squad ranked 93rd in total defense over the course of the first three games.
Things changed a bit Saturday. Florida held the Missouri Tigers to a total of 40 rushing yards.
Success Against Missouri
According to Mullen, Saturday’s performance by the Florida defense is what they are and who they are. It just took a few weeks for them to get going.
When assessing Florida’s performance against Missouri, Grantham said the players deserve the credit. He said success comes down to the availability of players.
Florida has struggled against opponents on third down, allowing opponents to convert on 58.7 percent of their tries. Saturday they faced a Missouri squad that came into the game converting roughly 48 percent of their third-down attempts.
Gator fans were probably a little scared for Saturday.
Well, there was no need to be. For the first time all season, the Gator defense showed up.
The Tigers were just 3-of-15 on third-down conversions and were held to a total of 40 rushing yards. A Florida squad that was without three key starters in the secondary and starting two true freshmen because of it showed up.
High Standards for Florida’s Defense
The Gators are not usually known for a defense that lacks talent or performance. However, this side of the ball has been, without a doubt, a struggling component for the team.
The defense has lacked depth, leadership and execution. In 2019, the Gators were led by David Reese II. He has since moved on to the league.
So, who’s the veteran leader that the Gators have been lacking?
Senior defensive lineman Kyree Campbell could be that guy. He sat out the first three games for undisclosed reasons. Campbell made his return on Halloween against the Tigers.
With Campbell back, sophomore Brenton Cox Jr. was able to get back to his normal territory.
Campbell is a veteran player that has started in 24 games throughout his time with the Gators and brings a certain energy to the field. He has totaled 88 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and three and half sacks in Gators defenses that have ranked atop college football.
Looking Ahead to Florida-Georgia
Florida faces rival Georgia in Jacksonville on Saturday for “the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party.” Well, it might not be its’ usual party this fall because of coronavirus protocols. However, the matchup will still be getting lots of attention.
Many people are focusing on how Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett needs to play in order for the Dawgs to win, but it’s going to come down to more than that. The Bulldogs offensive line and ability to run the ball are going to be crucial for head coach Kirby Smart’s squad.
Grantham knows the Gators need to be physical.
The Dawgs are going to be challenged if the same Florida defense that played Missouri shows up in Jacksonville.
Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday in Duval County.