Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Gators' run defense to be put to SEC's toughest test

Defensive end Lerentee McCray and Florida held UAB and running back Bashr Coles to 71 net yards rushing in UF’s 39-0 win Sept. 10.


Defensive end Lerentee McCray and Florida held UAB and running back Bashr Coles to 71 net yards rushing in UF’s 39-0 win Sept. 10.

GAINESVILLE — When preseason practice began in August, Florida coach Will Muschamp said a primary defensive objective was to be aggressive and have a solid ability to defend against the run.

So far, the Gators have been successful in that endeavor.

UF is tied for fifth in the nation in run defense, allowing 56.6 yards per game, and is the only team that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season. Florida opponents have rushed for 226 yards on 110 attempts, a 2.1 average.

But in five of its next six games, UF faces seven of the SEC's top 10 running backs — from Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina.

To survive and be successful, the Gators must be even more diligent in stopping the run.

On Saturday, that means finding a way to contain the Alabama duo of Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy.

"He's very talented," UF linebacker Jelani Jenkins said of Richardson. "He can beat you with speed; he can beat you with power. And he has a really good field of vision. So we're going to have to really game-plan against him."

Richardson and Lacy are ranked No. 2 and No. 7 in the league in rushing. Lacy's practice is limited while he recovers from a partially torn pectoral muscle, but Alabama coach Nick Saban said he is expected to play.

Richardson, the junior who spent his first two years in the shadow of former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, leads the Tide with 110.2 yards per game. Lacy backs him up with 91.2 per game.

Richardson and other Tide players believe they could have a slight advantage in that they've seen a Muschamp-led defense before. Muschamp was Texas' defensive coordinator when the Tide defeated the Longhorns in the 2010 BCS national title game.

"Oh, yeah, their defense is always going to be like Coach Saban's," Richardson said. "It's very difficult. They come with a lot of blitzes. They come with a lot of different stuff we haven't seen. Well, stuff we do see in practice. We know Coach Saban is going to prepare us for that. We'll have to go against our defense the whole week. I know Dont'a (Hightower) is going to be coming at me, and (Courtney) Upshaw is going to be coming at me. We're going to be going at each other just trying to be prepared for this game."

The Gators expect a strong challenge from Alabama's offensive line, which defensive tackle Omar Hunter said was one of the most formidable he faced last season.

Florida tackled poorly in last season's 31-6 loss at Alabama. Muschamp believes that will be a critical part of taking away the Tide's running game.

"More than anything, playing blocks well up front, disengaging and then tackling," Muschamp said. "It's going to come down to tackling. Trent Richardson is a really good player, and Eddie Lacy is a really good player. They have really good running backs that are hard-nosed tough players, and we just need to tackle them. It's going to come down to some one-on-ones where we've got to tackle well in the open field. This is certainly the best running team we're going to face; there's no question about that."

Antonya English can be reached at

Florida Gators' run defense to be put to SEC's toughest test 09/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 9:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs defensive end Chris Baker (90) is seen during training camp last month at One Buc Place. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  2. Bucs' defensive attributes in opener included flexibility


    TAMPA — It's a blink-and-you-miss-it nuance, but in Sunday's opener against Chicago, on their very first defensive snap, the Bucs lined up in a 3-4 defense.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter shakes hands with cornerback Brent Grimes (24) before an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 

  3. Bucs-Vikings: What if O.J. Howard and Dalvin Cook had both been taken?


    So what if the Bucs had taken neither O.J. Howard nor Dalvin Cook with the 19th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft?

    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard (80) makes a reception as Chicago Bears free safety Eddie Jackson (39) tackles him Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Wish the Bucs had taken Dalvin Cook? Read this


    It will happen sometime Sunday afternoon.

    Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) carries the ball in the second quarter Monday night, Sept. 11, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn.  (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
  5. Bucs-Vikings: What could make Tampa Bay's defense elite again


    TAMPA — The last time the Bucs had a top-five defense also happens to be when they last appeared in the postseason.

    Bucs outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) celebrates after recovering a fumble by Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon (8) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]