With Florida’s defense getting off to one of its’ worst starts in Gators' history, many around the program believed there were changes on the way from a philosophical standpoint following the two-week hiatus from football activities.
However, despite the time to mull over the first three outings and self-evaluate his defense, Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is confident that his philosophies do not need to be altered.
“We really haven't changed anything and what we're doing,” Grantham said in his press conference yesterday afternoon.
In fact, Grantham believes the defense has more answers to situations than in years past.
“I personally think we actually have made better answers than say two years ago to certain things.”
Unfortunately for Grantham and the Gators, the answers they believe in having improved with simply haven’t worked the way they’re being made out to be. Rather, the unit allowing 495 yards, 33.3 points per game and has allowed 61% of third and fourth down tries to be converted to this point.
Grantham is confident in his preparation and notes the success he has seen in the past as a reason he looks to not make many changes despite his unit's deficiencies.
“Yeah, each team is its own and honestly no different than when I was at Mississippi State when we were 10th in the country and last year when we were 10th,” Grantham said. “We just got to continue to work and let that success come about."
However, the season has a chance to slip away rather quickly. Without a significant remodel of the execution on that side of the football, Florida could realistically find themselves with 3-4 losses come to the season's end.
When looking at what Florida has done this season, one could argue that the philosophy has already been changed from those top ten defenses Grantham has once fielded.
A team built on the premise of being fast, physical, and aggressive, the defense has failed in almost all three aspects in this year's campaign.
Specifically, Grantham is synonymous with the mantra of aggression and flustering opposing teams offenses with loads of different looks and a high volume of blitzes.
Known for constantly dialing up pressure—Florida’s walk-off victory in Dan Mullen’s 2018 return to Mississippi State, for example—Grantham has seen success in sending more than the traditional amount after the passer and allowing one-on-one coverage down the field.
This season, the Gators have failed to establish the aggressive identity that the unit is built to be.
Only rushing three to four to the quarterback, lack of press coverage from defensive backs in short-yardage situations—that would usually bring press coverage and all-out blitzes—and being out of position has led to the Gators being ranked 93rd overall in total defense to this point in the year.
Reverting to the philosophy of ruthless aggression could pay dividends for the Gators defense in 2020.
As I, and others, have said before, this defense does not have to be anything more than serviceable. The 7th ranked unit Florida fielded last year is obviously no longer there.
Instead, just getting off the field and putting the ball in the hands of their prolific offense with no pressure to score 40-plus points a game not only wins them ball games but puts them back into the conversation for contention for a national title.
Ultimately, Grantham is going to carry out the plan he believes works best. However, now is not the time to be stuck in old ways, but the time to survive, adapt and conquer the season by controlling the table with the best offensive unit Florida has statistically possessed since 2001.