The concern over Florida’s offense remains as strong as ever. But there is a new aspect to the problem: The defense is struggling, too.
Florida is allowing 24.2 points per game this season. If that total holds, it would be the highest since the 2007 defense allowed 25.5.
Florida coach Jim McElwain was able to ride an elite defense in his first two seasons, winning the SEC East both years. Those days are over. The Gators (3-2 overall, 3-1 in the SEC) enter Saturday’s game against visiting Texas A&M (4-2, 2-1) with as many flaws on defense as it has on offense.
Each side of the ball can do one thing well. The offense can run the ball. The defense can rush the passer. That’s where it ends.
UF’s defense ranks outside of the top 50 in the nation in total defense and scoring defense. The Gators did lose out on a chance to pad the stats because the Northern Colorado game was cancelled because of Hurricane Irma. Still, the degree of the drop-off is concerning, especially considering that UF hasn’t seen anything close to an elite offense.
When the defense doesn’t get turnovers — and it hasn’t in three consecutive games – this becomes a subpar group.
The problem compounds the mess McElwain is in on offense. The Gators might like to speed things up, but the defense needs to be protected.
There is no depth at linebacker and really no stars at this point. The secondary is heavily reliant on true freshmen. Attrition has stung from the outset, something that couldn’t happen after four defenders left school early for the NFL draft. Safety Marcell Harris, the returning leading tackler, tore his Achilles in July. An alleged credit-card scheme involving nine players took away two linebackers and three defensive linemen. Likely starting linebacker Kylan Johnson has missed time with a hamstring injury. His backup is Jeremiah Moon — and he, too, is dealing with an issue. This week, the secondary might be without starting safeties Chauncey Gardner and Nick Washington.
This is a full-on crisis for McElwain and defensive coordinator Randy Shannon.
Gator fans don’t want to hear this, but the best formula for UF to win is to slow down its offense. Run the ball. Shorten the game. Protect the defense. Hope you end up on the right side of a 14-13 game.
That’s where this Florida program is right now. The Gators are broken not just on offense, but on defense as well.
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