These are high-pressure times at the University of Florida, thanks to last season’s 4-8 record and the uncomfortably warm seat on which head coach Will Muschamp is currently sitting — undoubtedly made hotter under the glares of big-money boosters who are used to winning and not so much used to waiting.
So while most programs would be OK with the Gators’ 2-1 record this season — consisting of a 65-0 rout of Eastern Michigan, a triple-overtime win over Kentucky and last Saturday’s 42-21 loss to Alabama — there is panic in Gainesville because, well, they don’t like losing to the Alabama.
There have been many calls for Muschamp to bench junior quarterback Jeff Driskel in favor of freshman backup Treon Harris, but Muschamp says he’s not changing QBs (yet). Instead, the coach is more concerned with Florida’s defense — particularly the secondary — going into their Oct. 4 game against Tennessee. From the Orlando Sentinel:
UF ranked in the top 10 nationally in defense the past three seasons, but allowed 1,095 yards in two SEC games. Repeated breakdowns in the secondary was the primary issue against Kentucky and Alabama, who had quarterbacks in their first SEC start torch the Gators for a combined 814 passing yards and seven touchdowns.
The Gators also missed close to 30 tackles and could face Tennessee without defensive tackle Leon Orr and middle linebacker Mike Taylor. Orr had arthroscopic surgery Monday to repair a torn meniscus, while Taylor has a bone bruise and knee swelling.
“Extremely disappointed two games in a row of giving up the big plays we’ve given up,” he said.
The Gators returned only one starter, All-SEC cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Even so, Muschamp said inexperience does not justify the number of mistakes on the back end of the defense.
In two SEC games, UF (2-1, 1-1 SEC) has allowed 10 completions of 25 or longer, including touchdowns of 87 and 79 yards to Alabama.
Muschamp told his defensive backs that Hargreaves is the only player who coaches would not considering replacing for the Tennessee game.
Like his former boss Nick Saban, Muschamp treats the secondary as his pet project. He played safety for the University of Georgia in the early-1990s, and began his coaching career as a DBs coach and eventually became a defensive coordinator before Florida made him its head coach.
Florida’s defensive backfield starters against Alabama were senior safety Jabari Gorman, sophomore safety Keanu Neal, sophomore cornerback Marcus Maye, junior nickel back Brian Poole, and Hargreaves, a sophomore corner.