Gators FILM ROOM: Todd Grantham boasts a Top 5 defense in all of college football

Donavon Keiser

The Gators pulled out a remarkable “upset” last Saturday in The Swamp, as they outplayed their former rival, the Auburn Tigers, in their first meeting since 2007.

Florida played incredibly well on defense, as they bailed out the offense multiple times after posting five turnovers. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s defense only allowed 13 points, and the only touchdown given up came after head coach Dan Mullen called a risky fake punt deep in his own territory. Mullen even took responsibility for the touchdown, as the defense gave up a deep pass to Seth Williams one play after the turnover. 

The Gators had a total of three interceptions, from safeties Shawn Davis and Donovan Stiner, and one from cornerback Marco Wilson. Including the three from the Auburn game, the Gators are up to 12 interceptions on the season among seven defenders on the season.

Florida's defense was tough as nails and has still only given 17 points in the second half through six games in 2019. Grantham has been excellent with his halftime adjustments, and this is only further proof as to why he is a top defensive coordinator in all of College Football. Grantham’s play-calling was nothing short of elite, as he only gave up 269 yards to Auburn.

The Florida defense had complete control over Auburn all afternoon, and the Tigers struggled on 3rd down only converting twice on 14 attempts. Auburn also went for it once on 4th down, and that was also shut down by the tenacious UF front seven. The Gators stopped the run for the majority of the game, and the pass rush aided the defensive backs as Nix only completed 11 of his 27 passes for only 145 yards. 

All of this came without one his best linemen, as Jabari Zuniga has remained sidelined since the Kentucky game for an ankle injury. Zuniga should return to the Gators for LSU, as he dressed for Auburn but has held out in order to make sure he was 100% going forward.

Let's take a look at some of Florida's best defensive plays on tape from the Auburn game, and how they prove that the Gators own one of the best defenses in the nation.

FILM ROOM

Play 1: Donovan Stiner TFL (8:46, 1st Quarter)

This was a tremendous play by Stiner, as Jonathan Greenard bit on the fake to the running back JaTarvious Whitlow. Trey Dean picks up the pass option, and Stiner comes down and tackles Nix for a two-yard loss. I see some improvement in Stiner’s run support, as he embraced contact this past weekend.

Play 2: Anthony Schwartz Jet Sweep, loss of four (15:00, 2nd Quarter)

It is obvious that Grantham has drilled the concept of containment into his defense, as the Gators did not get beat outside all day against a shifty Auburn offense. Marco Wilson does a perfect job of keeping one of, if not the, fastest players in all of college football inside, which allows the rest of the defense to corral him down. James Houston and three other Florida defenders meet Schwartz in the backfield for a loss of four. This was Schwartz’s only touch all day, as he was a complete non-factor against the Gators.

Play 3: Shawn Davis Interception (14:30, 2nd Quarter)

This play should have never gone as well as it did, as the Gators only had 10 defenders on the field after the big TFL the play before. The Gators only rushed four, but Greenard creates pressure after manhandling the left tackle which forces Bo Nix to force a throw to avoid a sack. We knew going into this matchup that Nix was awful under pressure, and this play shows how unsettled the true freshman gets when defenders are in his face. Safety Shawn Davis makes an outstanding play to pick the ball off and tacked on another 41 yards on the return. Josh Hammond scored two plays later.

Play 4: Zachary Carter and Jeremiah Moon Stunt (7:46, 3rd Quarter)

This wasn’t a play everyone will go back to when watching the game, but to me, this demonstrates how creative and elaborate Todd Grantham’s blitz schemes can get. Florida lines up in a 3-3-5 look, and as soon as the snap occurs Jeremiah Moon comes crashing into the left tackle and Zach Carter comes inside to get pressure on Nix. The freshman Quarterback is forced out of the pocket to the sideline and throws on the run to Seth Williams which is broken up by C.J Henderson. Auburn punts on the next play.

Play 5: Bo Nix falls, loss of 22 (10:13, 4th Quarter)

This play changed the whole outcome of this game, as Auburn was faced with a 3rd and 8 on the UF 36-yard line. The Gators only rush four, but with help from the secondary force Nix backward in order to escape the pressure. Nix makes another freshman mistake as he falls down, forcing his team out of field goal position thanks to the massive loss. UF stayed disciplined throughout the play, as they contained Nix even after being held by the Auburn offensive line. The front four allow for no escape and eventually, Nix just gives up, forcing Auburn to punt.

Play 6: Shawn Davis helps in run support (7:24, 4th Quarter), and Play 7: Houston Blitz (6:47, 4th Quarter) - these two plays are combined in one video.

This wasn’t a game-changing play, but this play shows just how reliable Shawn Davis plays in run support as he meets Whitlow in the hole and stops him dead in his tracks. I still believe English should play Davis above Taylor and Stiner, but it seems that is a lost cause due to the rotations he uses.

Grantham again brings the heat, this time blitzing Trey Dean and James Houston which results in a loss of seven. Auburn pulls the right guard which allows for Dean to draw the tight end to the edge, all while Houston comes crashing down the C gap into Bo Nix for the sack. The tackle slides to the left, and the tight end was too busy with Dean to be able to help on Houston as he came on a delayed blitz.

Florida’s defense did not fold all afternoon and made plays whenever they needed to against a solid Auburn offense, but UF won’t have such an easy time this weekend. They’re tasked with LSU and QB Joe Burrow, who boasts the No. 1 scoring offense in all of college football in Death Valley. 

LSU has had an extra week to prepare for Florida, as they won comfortably against Utah State last weekend. I still lean towards the Gators to outplay the LSU offense, as LSU hasn’t played anyone of note aside from a Texas team who still has an awful defense. Texas is ranked #102 in total defense through last week's games, and UF comes in at #18 in that same ranking. 

The Gators defense has created turnovers and wreaked havoc all season, and they haven’t been at full healthy since the Miami game - Amari Burney and Kyree Campbell weren’t 100% then either. Joe Burrow threw two game-changing interceptions last year against Florida, and I believe the new look LSU offense will have a rough day as they haven’t faced an aggressive defense like Florida’s at any time this season. 

Regardless, it will be a bloodbath between two SEC powerhouses and once again the whole country will be watching at 8 PM on Saturday. 

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