Florida vs South Carolina – Film Review – Defense

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Today’s defensive review looks at Florida at South Carolina and what went wrong in the Gators allowing 27 points to the Gamecocks.

South Carolina starts this game off early with a flea-flicker and gets a nice gain out of it. CJ Henderson isn’t in a bad position; he is right on the WRs back and makes a play for the ball, as we can see in the image below. This has happened to Florida this season (twice vs. Kentucky for instance) in terms of a corner not being out of position and playing the ball almost perfectly but still giving up a big catch.

I have pointed out many times that Trey Dean is excellent from the nickel/STAR position coming on blitzes. He has 2 sacks on the year which isn’t a lot, but he’s routinely blowing up running backs who stay in pass protection and he plays the run pretty well, as he shows here. I am a strong believer that these kinds of plays are keeping him on the field despite him struggling badly in coverage because I am a firm believer that both Jaydon Hill and Kaiir Elam are better pure cover corners.

David Reese is a player I’m routinely all over the place with. I believe that he is a good linebacker who is limited in what he can do. He doesn’t have great speed; He struggles in pass coverage and if you force him to track down runs east and west you’re putting him in a difficult spot. Has he gotten better? I believe so; he flashed once or twice in this game on wide runs, but mostly, he’s struggled here. I believe that his best trait is in being a traditional downhill run-stuffing linebacker. If he can just focus on hitting the A gap, he’s solid. And he shows it here. Reese is also one example of how much Savage has paid off as the strength and conditioning coach because a year ago Reese is probably allowing the RB to overpower him.

I will be nit-picky on the play of Florida’s cornerbacks in this review because of the Georgia game coming up. I noticed during the game that South Carolina was routinely getting WRs open deep but Hilinski just did a flat out bad job of throwing consistently catchable balls deep. Right here is one of those instances where Wilson gets beat deep, slightly, but well-placed throw should result in a big gain for Carolina.

There is a bit going on in this next play. For one, it was a good play call by Carolina with the defense Florida was in; second, they blocked it really well. But there are also some glaring issues with the defense here. The first thing I noticed was that 358 pounds (per the official Florida roster) Slaton gets moved out of the way like he is 200 pounds. This looks like a double team; it really isn’t. One lineman is engaged fully with Slaton, a second lineman has his arm on Slaton but his eyes on another defender and doesn’t seem overly committed to actually double-teaming Slaton.

Miller just seems to stand in place, allowing a lineman to easily get up and reach him for a block. The pre-snap motion gets the safeties out of position. But the biggest thing I’ve noticed with Florida’s defense is that they are very weak at DT, which is a shame because there is plenty of size in the middle, but none of them seem consistently good enough to actually stand their ground vs the run game and Florida has no one like a Dominique Easley who was so shockingly quick off the snap he could shoot a gap before a lineman could engage with him.

Here is Dean in coverage, and as you can see, he once again gets burned in man coverage. He has safety help over the top but it’s not great safety help, Florida was able to put enough pressure on Hilinski here that he wasn’t able to step into this throw, because if Hilinski could throw this accurately towards the hash marks, this is probably a walk-in TD for Carolina.

This is one of those plays that the label of the quality of the coverage will differ by the person. This isn’t bad coverage, but again, Wilson gets beat just enough that an accurate throw is possibly a TD here. It’s the third play in this game that you might state South Carolina left points off the board because of an inaccurate throw. Florida brings pressure on this play but the pressure never gets to Hilinski, he throws from a clean pocket.

I really have not been a fan of Carter or Moon as pass rushers in moments they were on the field in substitution of Greenard and Zuniga, but it seems as if the increased playing time for both of them may pay off in terms of their productivity. Moon still has a low number of pass rush moves to win with and relies too much on his athleticism. Carter more or less has the same issue, but Carter is considerably stronger, at least on film, than Moon is, as well as the fact Carter has a bit better dip at the hips than Moon does. Moon does a fine job opposite Carter here so I have no issues with Moon on this specific play but this GIF is to show how powerful Carter can be from the end position as he helps force an inaccurate pass that should have been picked off by Henderson.

Giving up a 21 yard TD run on a 3rd and 11 draw play is awful, no matter how you try and slice it. Some credit goes to Carolina for coming out in a 3 x 1 look and forcing Florida to go with a dime package here. This is a play where I believe Reese being on the field instead of Miller probably keeps this play from happening, Miller has struggled badly lately and his reaction time and hand usage isn’t good. He takes a bad angle to the RB and misses. No one in the secondary makes a play. The defensive line is playing the pass and are completely of position here.

The deeper we get into this game, the more Carolina is having success running the ball. It’s things like this that tell me that Georgia need not be creative in their play calling to beat Florida. This is just a simple run with two pulling linemen that looks designed to go to the A gap and Florida’s tackles easily get moved out of the way, Miller overruns the play, Taylor takes an awful angle to the ball carrier and the rest is history. I can only imagine how excited the Georgia offense will be when watching the film of Florida’s defense in the last two games.

It is difficult to consider Florida’s defense a top-end defense when they continue to allow a bad Carolina run game to pop off for these kinds of runs on 3rd and long with just a simple draw play. I give Carolina credit for understanding that Florida is weak upfront; they seem to understand that our ends will run themselves out of position on 3rd down as they seek to hit the QB. The DTs are not good enough and for whatever reason Florida has Miller instead of Reese playing MLB when Miller routinely runs himself out of position and is easily blocked by Carolina lineman.

I’m not sure what this play call is for Carolina. The WRs are running routes, Hilinksi runs a draw play to an RB pass blocking. My guess is everyone but Hilinski is running the right play. Carter is showing that progress again as he gets important playing time; he dips under the RT and can get to the QB and force the fumble.

The last time Jeawon Taylor was mentioned was in the Miami game film review and I mentioned that if he is on the field, the odds are good the opposing offense is moving the ball and scoring TDs. The yellow arrows are the angles that both Houston and Taylor take on the screen. I am no coach, but I do not understand why Taylor doesn’t fill the gap created by the receivers blocking for Carolina. Because both Houston and Taylor take lazy angles to the pass catcher, it is a relatively easy TD for him.

Conclusion

This game was frustrating to watch defensively. I realize that many people have moved on from the Muschamp years, but his offense is still as bland as it’s always been under him. And while there has been some progress at Carolina this year, to allow the number of rushing yards Florida did in this game is disappointing.

South Carolina came into this game ranking 40th officially in rush offense, but as I went over on my Twitter timeline leading up to the game if you removed the 493-yard performance vs. Charleston Southern, they would rank 88th. Replace it with their FBS average instead of fully removing that performance and Carolina ranks in the mid too late 70s. Florida allowed Carolina to run for 217 yards, and I get part of this deserves an asterisk with missing Zuniga and Greenard.

But I’m not sure how much of a difference Zuniga and Greenard make. Maybe Carolina runs for 150-175 instead of over 200. It’s impossible to say. Greenard is a superb run defender from the edge position and he’s a huge upgrade over Moon or Carter here. But Carolina seemed to come into this game with the idea that Zuniga and/or Greenard would play because their game plan stuck with runs up the middle vs going wide. That is why I’m not sure that the total yardage would be wildly different.

Florida’s linebacker and defensive tackle play are less than ideal right now. When Reese lines up over C or either G the defense is better than when he is lining up as an OLB over either OT or TE. Ventrell Miller had one or two games earlier in the season he flashed and gave me the idea he would be a solid replacement to Joseph. But that isn’t the case right now. He’s slow in his reaction speed to running plays, he often takes bad angles to the ball carrier and he’s not physical at all when taking on blocks.

I believe the best combination at DT is Campbell and Shuler, despite being listed at 358 pounds, Slaton is weak vs the run. He doesn’t use his size wisely at all and easily gets moved out of the way. There was a noticeable drop off with him on the field. Campbell played the most of the tackles with Shuler and Slaton splitting time at DT and I would say Carolina put up close to, if not slightly over 100 yards rushing while Slaton was on the field.

It would not surprise me if Florida’s safety rotation lost them another game during the regular season. Stewart and Davis should be the two primary safeties who stay on the field most of the time, Stiner and Taylor are noticeable downgrades across the board. I’m not sure why Grantham is obsessed with this rotation at the safety position but I don’t imagine the Georgia offense is doing anything but smiling when they watch the film and see Taylor and Stiner on the field.

I am not a fan of Grantham, the defensive statistics on the year aren’t bad by any means but I really thought most of these categories would be higher in year two under him with so many returning guys from last year’s defense. But despite my opinion of Grantham, I’m not fully sold that there is any defensive coordinator in the country that can build a defense that is much better than what Florida has right now. There is a serious talent issue on this defense and it sticks out at multiple positions, and this game, combined with the secondary play vs LSU, should give people pause when discussing the Georgia game as anything other than a close game.

Finally, I want to point out that the one area Grantham continues to drive me nuts with is the inconsistency in his aggressiveness. I am unsure why Florida is less aggressive this year than last. I can only guess. But I counted eight situations that you may consider passing downs, either 2nd and 10 or 3rd and more than 5, or 4th and 3 or more. Of these eight plays, six were incomplete passes, one resulted in a sack and one resulted in a catch but short of the first down. On two other non-passing down situations (1st and goal and 2nd and 5) Grantham brought a corner blitz (5+ rushers), both resulted in a sack, one of those being the forced fumble from Carter I pointed out above.

I understand that the defense can’t blitz 100% of the time, but Florida spent nearly the entire last two drives in a 3 man prevent which is part of that asterisk I mentioned in terms of their rushing yard. Carolina ran numerous draw plays vs Florida’s prevent defense, and at no point in those final two drives did Grantham bring any heat just to throw their game off. Grantham got his label as an ultra-aggressive coordinator for a reason, but suddenly he has been very conservative in his usage of bringing 5 or more defenders. It didn’t cost Florida in this game, and that’s all that matters, but I believe Grantham needs to figure out what kind of team Florida is vs flip-flopping when Florida’s defense is very comfortable playing aggressively.

 

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