clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Florida’s defense has been even better than LSU’s. What can Missouri do to put points on the board?

A look at Florida’s defensive depth chart in advance of Saturday’s Mizzou-Florida game in Gainesville.

NCAA Football: Florida at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last 26 minutes of the Tennessee-Florida game, UT's Josh Dobbs went nuclear, completing eight of 10 passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns. The Vols charged back from 21-3 down to win, 38-28.

Florida's pass defense in those 26 minutes: 80% completion rate, 26.5 yards per completion, four touchdowns, zero interceptions, 390.1 passer rating.

Florida's pass defense in the other 274 minutes of the season to date: 35% completion rate, 12.8 yards per completion, zero touchdowns, eight interceptions, 58.2 passer rating.

The second half in Knoxville proves that the Gators are capable of losing the plot. The other 4.5 games prove that when the plot isn’t lost, Florida’s pass defense is untouchable.

Defensive line


  • Bryan Cox, Jr. (6’3, 269, Sr.) — 11.5 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 FF
  • Keivonnis Davis (6’4, 241, So.) — 3.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL (0.5 sacks)
  • Antonneous Clayton (6’3, 220, Fr.)


  • Khairi Clark (6’2, 319, So.) — 3.0 tackles


  • Caleb Brantley (6’2, 297, Jr.) — 7.5 tackles, 2 TFL (1 sack)
  • Taven Bryan (6’5, 293, So.) — 2.05 tackles, 1 FR


  • Cece Jefferson (6’1, 261, So.) — 9.0 takles, 1.5 TFL OR
  • Jabari Zuniga (6’3, 245, RSFr.) — 10.5 tackles, 5 TFL (5 sacks), 1 FF
  • Jachai Polite (6’2, 271, Fr.) — 3.5 tackles, 2 TFL (2 sacks), 1 FF

Florida’s defensive line depth is suffering due to injuries. End Jordan Sherit (knee) and tackle Joey Ivie (thumb) are both out indefinitely with injury, and starters Bryan Cox Jr. and Caleb Brantley are listed as probable after dealing with their own injuries. In their place, other former blue chippers will step into larger roles. Poor Jim McElwain.

Cox was UF’s most disruptive returnee on the line; he had 10.5 tackles for loss in 2015. If healthy, he is an obvious handful. Khairi Clark is asked to do nothing but serve as a tree trunk in the middle of the line and occupy multiple blockers, and he does it well. Brantley is excellent, and former five-star recruit Cece Jefferson will play at not only end, but also DT and NT. And on passing downs, Jabari Zuniga and Jachai Polite pin their ears back — despite backup roles, they’re on pace for about 17 combined sacks.

This line is a handful. It’s not enormous (outside of Clark), and it is only good against the run, not great — 41st in rushing success rate, 21st in Rushing S&P+, 97th in power success rate. Unfortunately, Missouri hasn’t really proven it can take advantage of this (relative) weakness.

If the Tigers can establish the run to some degree, the odds of winning rise dramatically. But a) we haven’t seen any sort of sustained rushing success this year so far, and b) Josh Heupel wants to throw the football. That creates a pretty poor matchup for Mizzou.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Florida
Cece Jefferson
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports



  • Daniel McMillian (6’1, 223, Sr.) — 1.5 tackles OR
  • Kylan Johnson (6’1, 216, RSFr.) — 5.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL (0.5 sacks)


  • Jarrad Davis (6’2, 238, Sr.) — 30.5 tackles, 2 TFL (2 sacks), 4 PBU
  • David Reese (6’0, 244, Fr.) — 6.5 tackles, 1 TFL


  • Alex Anzalone (6’3, 241, Jr.) — 24.0 tackles, 2.5 TFL (2.5 sacks), 2 PBU
  • Vosean Joseph (6’1, 226, Fr.)

McMillian is listed as questionable with a neck injury, but he hasn’t played a ton anyway. Florida frequently goes with a nickel look and dominates with it.

Davis and Anzalone have been excellent in the middle of this defense, cleaning up against the run, providing a little bit more oomph in the pass rush, and breaking up some passes as well.

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Florida
Jarrad Davis and company
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports



  • Quincy Wilson (6’1, 213, Jr.) — 6.5 tackles, 2 TFL (1 sack), 2 INT, 2 PBU
  • Chauncey Gardner (5’11, 204, Fr.) — 5.5 tackles, 2 PBU


  • Teez Tabor (6’0, 201, Jr.) — 6.5 tackles, 3 INT, 1 PBU
  • Joseph Putu (6’2, 195, Jr.) — 2.0 tackles


  • Nick Washington (6’0, 197, Jr.) — 11.5 tackles, 1 INT OR
  • Marcell Harris (6’1, 211, Jr.) — 11.0 tackles, 1 INT


  • Marcus Maye (6’0, 216, Sr.) — 23.0 tackles, 1.5 TFL (1 sack), 1 INT, 3 PBU
  • Jeawon Taylor (6’0, 187, Fr.) — 3.5 tackles


  • Duke Dawson (5’10, 208, Jr.) — 11.0 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 FF
  • Chris Williamson (5’11, 191, So.) — 2.5 tackles

Opponents are running the ball 66 percent of the time against Florida on standard downs, well above the national average. They do this because they know the pass probably isn’t going to be a very fruitful option. Granted, Drew Lock is automatically the second-best quarterback to play against the Gators this year, but this unit is terrifying. Florida’s corners are big and aggressive, and as Josh Heupel mentioned this week, the Gators are probably every bit as physical as LSU’s secondary was.

Q: The matchup the receivers had against LSU, how similar is it against the defense of Florida?

Heupel: “These guys do a great job at the line of scrimmage, man. They use their hands extremely well and disrupt you, to say the least. It’s a big test for our guys to do some things better than they did a week ago out on the perimeter.”

Q: Was the LSU game the first time the receivers faced that kind of physicality at the line?

Heupel: “I wouldn’t say that. Georgia got up in our face and played some press, but they’re a good secondary like Florida is. Those guys are extremely talented on the back end.”

Florida ranks 15th in DB havoc rate; the Gators get hands on passes but play close enough to the line of scrimmage to make quite a few tackles for loss, too. They will force Mizzou receivers to straight-up defeat them to make plays; Tiger wideouts have improved, but we’ll see just how much they’ve improved. (I’m not optimistic. I’m thinking this is another learning experience for young guys like Johnathon Johnson and Emanuel Hall.)

Vanderbilt v Florida
Duke Dawson
Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

Special Teams


  • Eddy Pineiro (6’0, 173, So.) — 15-15 PAT, 7-9 FG; 27 kickoffs, 74.1% touchback rate


  • Johnny Townsend (6’1, 211, Jr.) — 24 punts, 50.2 average, 5 fair caught, 6 inside 20


  • Lamical Perine (5’11, 220, Fr.) — 2 KR, 21.5 average
  • Brandon Powell (5’9, 184, Jr.)


  • Antonio Callaway (5’11, 197, So.) — 9 PR, 3.6 average
  • Brandon Powell (5’9, 184, Jr.) — 5 PR, 4.6 average

All the Florida offense has to be is competent for the Gators to be a dangerous team. The defense has been untouchable for about 90 percent of the season so far, and the special teams unit is excellent, too.

Johnny Townsend is a one-man field position machine, Eddy Pineiro’s kickoffs are rarely playable, and while the return game hasn’t really gotten going yet, we know it can: Antonio Callaway returned two punts for touchdowns last year.

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Florida
Eddy Pineiro & Johnny Townsend
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

For Mizzou to win this game, the Tigers are going to need to play their best defensive game of the season. I’m not thinking there will be just a ton of scoring opportunities.

(Of course, if they wanted to go the “score four return touchdowns” route again, as they did in 2014, that would be fine, too.)