October 27, 2010

Will Dawgs' defense respond?

Florida coach Urban Meyer made it clear that one thing he intended to do during its off-week last Saturday was to use the extra time to install some modifications to help boost the Gators' sagging offense.

While it remains to be seen exactly how different Florida (4-3, 2-3) will look Saturday in Jacksonville, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said simply understanding the Gators' personnel should help his defense be ready for anything new it might see.

"You've got to understand the players they've got and what those players can do," Grantham said. "You've just go to be ready for their philosophy, how they run the ball, how they use their quarterbacks, their backs and receivers for the game. You plan off of that and just go play."

Grantham said Georgia's plan takes into account the likely return of suspended wide receiver Chris Rainey, plus the notion that the Gators will likely involve the dangerous Trey Burton more at quarterback, along with starter John Brantley.

"They are definitely very different in what they do and style. Most of the time when Burton gets in there, Brantley is still in the game. I guess it would be like a Wildcat type of situation. The thing about Burton, he'll play receiver, he'll play tight end, he'll play fullback, he'll play quarterback, he'll play a lot of different positions," head coach Mark Richt said. "When he's in there, normally Brantley has been in there also. So Brantley has moved to the wide receiver position a good bit, and Burton has been their quarterback. You're not sure when they break the huddle who is going to be their quarterback."

Offensively, this is certainly not your father's Florida team.

The Gators are ninth in the SEC in scoring offense (27.6 points per game), ninth in total offense (329 yards per game), 10th in rushing offense (142.1 yards per game) and eighth in passing offense (186.9 yards per game).

Add in the fact that Florida has already turned the football over 14 times, and it's no wonder Meyer was determined to use the open date to tweak his offense as much as time allows.

"I know from past experience that if you are going to try to make a fairly radical change, that's the time to do it. I'm not saying they are going to do that, but you can definitely do a lot more in an open date because you have more time to think things through," Richt said. "Then you have more time to prepare your players and get the reps you might need if you are going to make a change. If you are going to make a change, a big change, this open date would be the time to do it. We know that there may be a little bit different look. If it is, we are trying to predict what the new looks might be. Just getting people back healthy I think is going to be a big part of the difference for them."

But Richt is also careful not to too wrapped up on Florida's less-than-stellar numbers.

As he points out, Florida's losses came to the likes of LSU, Alabama and Mississippi State, ranked first, second and fifth, respectively in the SEC in total defense.

For the record, Georgia comes in at No. 4 in total defense (306.8 yards per contest).

"There are some good defenses out there and they have played some very good football teams. When you play Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State back-to-back, those might be the three best defenses definitely on that side of the league," Richt said. "I haven't looked at their statistics, but my guess is that they are all probably top-10 or 15 defenses in the country, so they have struggled some against those teams, but they've also had their games where they put the 30 and 40-point margins on there. We'll just see how we do against them, but they are not putting the numbers up that they've put up in the past. "

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