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Gators searching for new defensive identity

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Posted: Monday, October 28, 2013 2:36 am

The buzz around the Gators this preseason has been about their new, fluid offense that incorporates the transition game.

But what about Florida’s defense?

Last season, the Gators were 12th in the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense and 11th in the SEC in field goal percentage defense.

Making matters worse, Florida lost Jennifer George, the team’s defensive anchor last season, to graduation. George led the team with 5.2 defensive rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in 2012-13.

Sydney Moss, who was second on the team with 4.7 defensive rebounds last season, transferred.

Without George and Moss, new players will be needed to help build a consistent defense.

Sophomore Antoinette Bannister said she thinks Jaterra Bonds and Carlie Needles are going to pick up the slack.

“They’re role models to me,” Bannister said. “I really love the way they play defense. They lock down. I look at them everyday and I’m like, ‘Dang, I want to be like them.’ I want to be a great defender. I don’t want to be just an offensive player that can’t guard anybody. I want to be great on both ends.”

The question still remains: How will the defensive philosophy shift in accordance to a new offense that depends on an up-and-down, frenetic style?

“Defensively, I feel like we’re a lot the same as we were last year,” redshirt junior Kayla Lewis said. “A lot of interchangeability with the pieces that we have.

“A lot of people talk about our offense being fast and fluid. I think our defense will be just as fast and just as fluid. We haven’t done a lot of full court things, but I know in the half-court we’re going to be just as aggressive as we were last year.”

With a new offense that coach Amanda Butler said could seem chaotic at first, establishing a defensive identity could prove challenging. There will inevitably be kinks on both sides of the ball when implementing a new paradigm.

Butler knows that. Her players do, too.

The buzzword that keeps reoccurring about building a successful defense is communication.

“If we just talk and let each other know we have each other’s back, I feel like we’ll be fine on offense and defense,” Bannister said.

Still, questions remain.

How will another year without the big-bodied Viktorija Dimaite take its toll? Who will step up on the rebounding front with the departures of George and Moss?

The Gators hope the fluidity from the offense translates to the defense.

“We’ve worked on our transition game and changed our defense when it comes to attacking,” sophomore Christin Mercer said.

“With the guards in a smaller post, we’ll be able to run the majority of the team to have a set half-court game. … Since we’re so versatile and so guard-like, we can move.”

Follow Gordon Streisand on Twitter @GordonStreisand.

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