Building up Gators’ discipline after breakdowns

By Adam Silverstein
October 10, 2011

The 2011 incarnation of the Florida Gators were supposed to be a blue collar team that was all about work ethic, toughness and limiting mistakes.

To that end, head coach Will Muschamp has succeeded in fostering an environment of players taking initiative and doing their best to improve, but the discipline and reliability exhibited by some members of the team leaves a lot to be desired.

“That’s part of being a good football team – understanding what to do and how to do it, which is discipline,” Muschamp said on Monday during his weekly media availability. “All it takes is one breakdown on a play. You got 10 guys doing it right, you got one guy not doing it right, and then you got an issue and a problem.”

Those individual breakdowns have come often for Florida this season and rear their ugly heads mostly in the form of penalties and missed tackles.

Florida committed 12 penalties for 90 yards on Saturday, their second-highest total of the season. And that’s not counting lost yardage on plays that were called back. It was also the fourth time in 2011 that the Gators had nine or more penalties called against them in a single game.

Muschamp has given passes to effort penalties (pass interferences, for example) that occur when players are simply trying to make plays, but Florida has also had issues with mental mistakes including calls like false start, holding and block in the back.

[EXPAND Click to expand and read the remainder of this post.]“We blocked behind the ball 20 yards. You can’t do that. That’s just something you can’t afford to do. We benefit nothing out of that,” he said. “Offensively we had two false start penalties and a loud crowd, but we got to understand to handle that. We use crowd noise at every practice on offense and defense, so our guys got to understand to work without the voice inflection and work on ball movement defensively and ball movement offensively if that’s what it takes. It’s something that we’ve been working on. Obviously we have not worked on it enough, so we’re going to work on it more.”

Tackling is another area in which the Gators need to improve. It was a problem that plagued Florida one year ago and is proving to be an issue yet again. UF’s strong safety, sophomore Matt Elam, is tied for second on the team with 34 tackles – and that’s not because opponents are throwing on the Gators but rather because he’s forced to take down so many running backs who reach the second level.

Florida has faced two of the country’s best running games in as many weeks, but things will not get any easier against Auburn and Michael Dyer on Saturday. Muschamp said containing Dyer and working on tackling will be a focus yet again this week.

“We teach techniques of tackling and we teach the proper technique of how you tackle a player as far as an angle is concerned, as far as finishing on a carrier, as far as when you’re in close quarters, as far as when you’re in an open field,” he said. “Throughout training camp we all have individual drills that we do within every defensive coach. Obviously tackling for a defensive lineman can be different for a secondary player based on the quarters of where you’re going to make the tackle. We hit all of those things.

“In the secondary it has been a big problem. Have we worked on it? Yes. Have we worked on it enough? No, obviously not. So we’ll look at some different guys and see if they’ll tackle better.”

The Gators have also failed to force a single turnover in their last two games after taking away a season-high four in a single contest against Kentucky. Muschamp said that Florida is practicing on causing turnovers the same way his Texas defense did in his second year on the job (when they led the nation in forced turnovers).

“Those are things that I hope start to come in bunches for us,” he said.

In the end, it will be how the Gators deal with adversity that determines how far they go this season. With games against Auburn, Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina ahead, Florida still controls its own destiny and has as good of an opportunity as anyone to win the SEC East and move on to the SEC Championship in Atlanta, GA.

UF now has a choice. They can pick up the pieces and move on with a renewed focus and intensity or allow two blowout losses to permanently affect their psyche.

“It goes back to mental toughness and handling adversity. At the end of the day, adversity causes two things: It causes you to unify or it causes you to divide,” Muschamp said. “We’re going to unify and move forward with guys who are going to do it our way, and we’ve got a bunch. We’re where we need to be as far as pushing forward after two tough defeats.”[/EXPAND]

One Comment

  1. Ken (CA) says:

    knowing the talent we have on D, listening to this you have to wonder whether they j ust don’t care, or they are just not bright at all…

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