Florida Football Countdown 'til Kickoff: 19) Defense Should Be Nasty

By Brett Kaplan

It’s 19 days until the Florida Gators open up play against the Florida Atlantic Owls and there are plenty of reasons to be excited. This is my top 20 reasons to be excited about this upcoming season. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment.

Will Muschamp has been a defensive coach since 2001 when he was Nick Saban’s defense coordinator. Ever since then, Muschamp has had a top 10 defense every year. There’s nothing saying that Muschamp won’t continue to have defensive success at Florida, now as head coach.

Florida had raked in top three classes in each of the three years prior to Muschamp’s arrival. In fact, the 2010 class ranked number one overall is arguably the best defensive class ever put together. It featured the number one overall prospect in LB/DE Ronald Powell, the top two DT’s in Shariff Floyd and Dominique Easley, and a number of highly ranked linebackers and defensive backs. My point in saying all of this is despite a disappointing 8-5 season last year, this year’s version is still stacked with talent. And Muschamp knows what to do with them.

Muschamp will be basically the defensive coordinator and head coach, but has brought in a superb team to coach up the defense. Dan Quinn will be the “defensive coordinator” with holdover D.J. Durkin coaching the linebackers, and NFL Hall of Famer Bryant Young coaching the defensive line. So far, the team has been raving about how much different this year will be and how these coaches are getting the most out of some of the most talented players in the nation. They will be switching between a 4-3 and 3-4 defense so the players are having a lot more thrown at them. But they seem to be thriving. Linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins were thrown into the fire last year as starters. This year, they’re understanding how to play their positions better and Jenkins is proving to be a leader and one of the fastest players on defense, perfect for the SEC.

The secondary is looking for players to step up with the loss of S Ahmad Black and Will Hill, and also with the dismissal of All-American candidate Janoris Jenkins. Every day, however, you hear of players in the defensive backfield stepping up. True freshman Marcus Roberson is impressing and could be the next great Florida freshman CB. Cody Riggs, Jeremy Brown, and Josh Shaw have looked good through the spring and into the practices today. And senior CB Moses Jenkins is being relied upon to lead the unit on and off the field.

Florida’s defense is young in a lot of key positions. A lot of players got experience last year when the team was struggling and that experience in invaluable. With the caliber of coaches and the maturity and chemistry of the players, this team has a chance to surprise and dominate on defense. For my money, I wouldn’t bet against Muschamp and his streak of top 10 defenses. This year will be no different.

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