When it comes to stopping the run next season, Florida coach Will Muschamp is hopeful that experience will make the difference.
Florida finished the 2011 season fifth in the Southeastern Conference in run defense, allowing 132.7 yards per game.
While not bad, it’s not up to the lofty standards Muschamp set at his previous stints as defensive coordinator at LSU, Auburn and Texas.
“We’ve improved up front,” Muschamp said before speaking at Tuesday night’s Central Florida Gator Club. “We entered the SEC last year with less starts than anybody else in the conference on defense.”
Even with the inexperience, Florida began the 2011 season strong against the run. The Gators entered October fifth in the nation in run defense, allowing just 56.6 yards per game.
But that was before Florida faced the meat of its league schedule. The Gators allowed 226 rushing yards against national champion Alabama, beginning an 0-4 month in which UF allowed 236 yards rushing to LSU and 185 yards rushing against Georgia.
Muschamp said he felt some of the run yards were inflated last season because opposing teams felt they could stay with the run because the Gators struggled to score points. But he acknowledged his team also let down against the run at times last season.
“We need to do a better job playing run defense, striking and playing blocks up front and tackling,” Muschamp said. “Those are the things we need to address. Scheme-wise we’ll continue to evolve, be a little bit more 3-4, which will help us in the run game a little bit more because we’ll have a little more girth on defense.”
Another factor could come up front, where 305-pound Sharrif Floyd will move back inside to defensive tackle and 286-pound Dominique Easley will move outside to defensive end. Easley was forced to move inside last season after Floyd served a two-game NCAA suspension for receiving unauthorized travel expenses. Floyd stayed outside when he returned.
“I think their more natural positions are where they will be this fall,” Muschamp said.
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