Kyree Campbell knows exactly what it’s going to take for the No. 10 Florida Gators to pull off a win against the No. 7 Auburn Tigers.
“This week is really about disciplined football.”
Sometimes it’s just that simple. Well, maybe.
The Tigers come in with arguably the best defensive front seven in college football. If one listens to national conversation, the Gators offense has little to no chance of working around the unit, particularly with a rushing attack that failed to push for lanes against FCS teams like UT Martin and Towson. But the Gus Malzahn run offense is also considered an advantage for the SEC West team, even when run by a true freshman quarterback.
Typically in those situations the playbook is dimmed down, sparse for ease on a young mind adapting to the speed of the college game. That should be what the Tigers offense is right now. One could assume Nix would be hampered by inexperience leading to a simplified call sheet.
STAR Trey Dean knows otherwise, because what this Tigers offense does is anything but simple and will take every bit of the discipline Campbell mentioned.
“They do a lot of stacks and motions, try to get a player out of position so they might send a motion and then another motion and you gotta read your keys. So a dude might be fitting like he blocking but he end up getting the ball. And sometimes they might give the ball to the tailback and the next time they might give the ball to the slot or something.”
That’s just before the play even has time to develop. Then comes the curveball, continues Dean.
“Then the different things in their different formations, 1, 2 and 3 can run the screen. Usually 1 or 3’s gonna run the screen, we never see 2 run the screen. So it’s just different things they can do, they got a lot of switch motions.
“Also when they get, even if they get five yards in the run, they gonna do a hurry up. Usually people do hurry up after they get a big play or something.”
So much of this is a result of Malzahn taking back play calling duties. During his first stint in Auburn as offensive coordinator, he and current Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham went head to head, with the latter coaching with the Georgia Bulldogs at the time. They split games in 2010 and 2011 with No. 1 Auburn taking the game 49-31 in ’10. The following year, Grantham and the No. 19 Dawgs held Auburn to one score for a 45-7 final. The rubber match came in 2013 when Malzahn returned to Auburn as head coach and the No. 2 Tigers defeated Georgia 43-38.
Needles to say, Grantham is aware of what Malzahn can do with a call sheet in his hands.
“They do a good job of working to formation you to create softness. And with softness comes seams, and when you have seams, guys that run downhill hard can hit it and make things happen. Then sometimes you lose the edge of the defense and guys can bounce it out and cut it back. That allows the double-digit runs and things like that. Because now you’ve got seams through the defense. [Gus] really stresses you at all levels from a standpoint of making sure that the edges of the defense are set, you’re stout inside building a wall. Then, as you get motions and movement, you can rotate and maintain your edges.”
And let’s not forget Bo Nix as a rusher. He’s currently second on the team on the ground with 173 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries.
“Anytime your quarterback can run the ball it becomes truly 11-on-11,” explains Grantham.
Florida’s defense has been holding teams to 281.2 total yards per game (17th in the country) but how do they stymie an offense racking up an average of 454.4 yards per game? Kyree Campbell said it; discipline, something he admits wasn’t always present during the 38-0 win over Towson last Saturday.
“We did some things on our side defensive wise that we could have done a lot better…hand placement, footwork, keeping base, staying in your gap, not getting out of your gap too fast. Simple stuff like that. It’s simple stuff like that that wins you the game.”
The Towson Tigers were 8-15 on 3rd down conversions. Auburn is currently converting 49% in that category. The middle of the field has become suspect at times for the Gators who will rush three and leave no help for coverage around middle linebacker David Reese. It’s a risk/reward that has paid off to this point for Grantham and the Florida defense, thanks in large part to the switch flipped within the redzone.
“It’s a mindset that you just get prepared,” says Campbell.
“It’s a mindset. You just need a blade of grass and we’re going to defend it. Our redzone defense we take very seriously. We want to hold them to three points or nothing.”
Adds BUCK Jon Greenard, “It’s hard. You’re tired. You’re sore. All of that plays into it. The momentum’s obviously not going our way; they’re driving. Their offense is clicking, so it’s really easy to give in. If anybody could do it, it would be easy. So, we know we have to take that chip on our shoulder every time we go into a game.
"I feel like we pride ourselves on finishing everything. So, no matter how the drive starts or what they’re doing in the middle, we just basically have to stop and put the fire out.”
So what will it take for the Florida Gators to defeat the Auburn Tigers?
A knowledge of what they’re facing, which Trey Dean proved is not an issue. And a laser focus that never strays from each man’s own job. It will take discipline.