Gators hope to rattle Joe Burrow, put a stop to LSU's prolific offense
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Todd Grantham is known for his aggressive defense. However, his defense is not always about rushing every man at the quarterback.
Back when Grantham was the defensive line coach for the Indianapolis Colts in the late 90s, early 2000s, the now Gators defensive coordinator had to go up against Peyton Manning.
"I was with Peyton Manning for what, three years, and he never could beat the Patriots for a long time," Grantham said.
You see Manning's problem was that he could not figure out where the fourth rusher was coming from.
"I’d sit there at practice and watch, and he never could figure out where the fourth rusher was coming from," Grantham said. "It really bothered him, but when we played four-down teams he’d start dialing it up. And he could tell the scout team, ‘You’re wrong. You should be here, you should be there.’ And he knew pre-snap where to go with the ball, so once I saw that I was pretty sold on what you needed to do."
Bo Nix had the exact same problem last weekend.
In Florida's win over Auburn, UF never sent more than four rushers, yet the Tigers quarterback was often on his back foot. Who can forget Jeremiah Moon, Zach Carter and Marlon Dunlap chasing down Nix for a sack for a loss of 22 yards.
"You’ve got to give it to him, he’s fast," joked defensive tackle Kyree Campbell, who caused Nix some headaches as well. "His eyes definitely lit up when I was in front of him."
"If you go back and look it was really the coverage and the look," Grantham said. "And he kind of locked in on a certain side and we took that away and there’s nowhere to throw the ball and guys kept coming. So I think it’s a combination of relentless effort in your rush, to have some guys that can win the one-on-ones, and then the back-end coverage of being able to play tight."
Nix finished the game going 11-for-27 passing for 145 yards and one touchdown and three interceptions.
"We have a great line, " said linebacker David Reese. "And coach does a great job of disguising blitzes and confusing the o-line with fronts and making them go five down when they don't need to and creating one-on-one matchups, but that's all coach Grantham's scheme and the coaching so a lot to that too."
Florida's ability to attack with a four man rush has allowed linebackers like Reese and Amari Burney to flourish.
"It's great because you don't have to cover for too long," said Reese. "Our back end is good so they're probably not gonna be able to take deep shots with our front, so you're just gonna know what they're gonna do and you just got to play the down and distance try to get a good jump on the plays."
Florida will be hoping to make Joe Burrow's eyes pop this weekend, when the Gators travel to Death Valley to face No. 5 LSU.
The Gators were the first team to force Burrow to throw an interception last season, and Florida is hoping to rattle the Tigers signal caller once again.
"Any time you can get pressure with four guys it’s a good thing," Grantham said. "You just try to mix it up to be able to make quarterbacks (uncomfortable). I don’t think you can be one-dimensional in anything, because that allows guys to understand what you’re doing. Anytime you can just make it uneasy on those guys that are throwing the ball I think that’s good."
The Gators will certainly try to cool off Burrow's hot start to the season.
In the Tigers' 42-6 win over Utah State State on Saturday, Burrow passed for 344 yards and five touchdowns. This season the signal caller has completed 78.4 percent of his passes, throwing for 1,874 yards and 22 touchdowns, while running for two more scores.
"He'll be the best quarterback, obviously, we've seen so far this year," said Gators head coach Dan Mullen. "He can make all the throws. He's got experience; he's been out there on the field. Playing in big games, that's not new for him; he's played in a bunch of big games. He's got great skill players around him; you can see his trust in those guys to go make plays out there. And I think he's just deceptively, really athletic. He can extend plays happen in the run game. If you're going to give it to him, he's going to take it."
"Joe Burrow, he’s a good player, he’s a good quarterback," said Campbell. "We gotta get to him and we gotta pressure him and we gotta just throw him off his game..He’s a hell of a thrower but he hasn’t ran that much. But like I said, we just gotta keep him in the pocket and we gotta press him, we gotta make him do things he’s not used to doing.”
Florida faced Burrow last season, however, the quarterback has progressed a lot under LSU passing game coordinator, Joe Brady.
Burrow leads the SEC in total offense (385.2 yards), passing yards per game (378.2), and passing yards (1,864).
"I feel like he's playing with a lot more confidence," said safety Donovan Stiner about the changes he has seen from Burrow. "It looks like they're a real pass-heavy team now compared to last year.”
"I don't really know him very well," added Mullen about Brady. "I think you look at them opening the offense up and spreading it around and really doing a good job of using their personnel. I think that's a sign of being a good coach. You say are we doing a good job of putting our players in an advantageous position to do what they do well. That's good coaching.”
LSU has scored 40 or more points in the first five games for the first time in school history, and the Tigers lead the nation in scoring offense with 54.8 points per game.
The Gators defense will look to put a stop with that with Grantham's aggressive defense, with their unpredictability.
In the end, Burrow will have to be quick to identify the fourth rusher, who can really be anyone on the field, no matter their position.
"I think it's really exciting just knowing everybody on the defense is going to make plays because that's how it's supposed to work," Moon said. "Everybody is going to feed off of each other. The energy is going to be up and when the energy is up in the moment, everybody just takes off."
Campbell and Florida will hope for another eye-popping performance.
"The best look is when you’re in front of the quarterback and then his eyes open up and he takes off," said Campbell. "So, and that’s when the tiredness kicks in because then you’ve got to go chase him.”