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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Gators defense improves earlier than expected headed into Mississippi game

Oh, Gators defense, how you toyed with us.

You thought you could come out and lollygag during the first two weeks and everybody would buy into the fact that you?re too young to have any success.

It looked like Tim Tebow and Co. were going to have to drop 50 every Saturday to even beat the lower-level Southeastern Conference teams.

Then you come out and play the way you did against Tennessee.

Freshman corner Joe Haden summed it up nicely:

BFirst game my legs were shaking. Third game was better. We were good.C

If the defense plays even close to the way it did against the Volunteers, the Rebels won?t score a touchdown Saturday.

Mississippi quarterback Seth Adams has played well so far, but SEC veteran Erik Ainge couldn?t even get anything going against the Gators last week. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a legitimate big-time running back, but UF only allowed 37 net yards rushing Saturday against a talented Tennessee backfield.

On Monday, UF coach Urban Meyer named nearly every single defensive starter a member of the Champions Club. That?s a far cry from after the Troy game.

After that Troy game, I wrote the Gators weren?t ready; there seemed little reason to believe they were.

I gave a two-year time frame before they?d be consistent.

Try a two-week time frame instead, because apparently that?s all they needed.

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In the words of former Alligator columnist Louis Anastasis: What in the name of Wondy Pierre-Louis is going on here!?!

A bunch of freshmen and sophomores aren?t supposed to be playing like juniors and seniors, but they are. I was in the Tennessee pressroom after the game, and these young players were responsible for making veteran Tennessee players nearly cry.

Ainge is a four-year starter, and he was completely owned by a bunch of young guns that get excited just to see their number in NCAA ?08.

The Volunteers players and coaches said they wanted to run the ball more, and Meyer said he couldn?t blame them with the way UF?s defense had played the first two games.

That first drive must have been a shocker when the Volunteers went three and out.

The Rebels have some playmakers, but now the Gators? defense does, too.

I admit the defense will still lack focus at times - nobody?s perfect. However, these young pups proved something last Saturday - they could shut down a legitimate team. Now, there are actually expectations for this defense.

The defensive staff deserves most of the credit. It has taken a group of guys who were trying to nab Homecoming dates a year ago to shutting down SEC offenses.

If co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and offensive coordinator Dan Mullen keep this up, they won?t be in Gainesville much longer. They?ll be head coaches somewhere else. Strong has gotten looked over before, but you can?t overlook what he?s done so far.

Looks like that LSU game just got more interesting. That game is two weeks away, but with the way UF?s defense is playing, that?s the next game that matters.

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