Scott Carter’s Blog Carter’s Corner
Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has been impressed by LB Antonio Morrison's fall camp. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – For those driving on SW 2nd Ave. Thursday morning, there was more evidence that football season is near.
The Gators relocated camp from Dizney Lacrosse Stadium to the Sanders Practice Fields, where they practice during the season. The facility underwent a face lift over the summer.
The Gators did more than move Thursday. They began to focus on Idaho, their opponent in the season opener Aug. 30.
“Today was our first day of getting into Idaho stuff,’’ defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “It was kind of half and half. We were still doing stuff against our offense and some of the practice was against Idaho looks.”
The Vandals, entering their first season as a football-only member of the Sun Belt Conference, are coached by Paul Petrino, the brother of Louisville and former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino.
Idaho is coming off a 1-11 season that included six losses of 30 or more points.
Durkin covered a wide range of topics during his press conference. Here is a Q&A:
Q: Is the secondary settled behind Vernon Hargreaves III at cornerback and Keanu Neal as one of the starters at safety?
A: We're starting to get a better idea of where we're going to have some guys. The thing about the secondary is there's a lot of guys deserving of playing time and they're going to get it. We're going to roll guys in there and play quite a few. We feel really good about the talent and the depth we have back there. A lot of those guys are without playing experience, so we're going to get them out there and see how they do and go from there.
Q: What is overall approach with secondary?
A: We have our packages where we're playing four, five and six DBs at a time, so we kind of already have guys pegged in where we're going to go and start from. It's really not unlike last year. We rotated a corner every series. And the year before we did the same. It's always the way it'll be done. The difference this year being it's not household names yet to everyone.
Q: How much confidence do you have in the linebackers behind the starters?
A: We have four inside linebackers right now that all have playing experience and I feel great about. We can go win anywhere with [those guys]. So Neiron [Ball], Mike Taylor, Antonio [Morrison] and Jarrad Davis, all those guys have played a bunch of snaps for us. Beyond that, then Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian have been repping a bunch throughout camp. They don’t have as much playing experience, but I feel really good about where they’re at.”
Q: What about redshirt freshman Matt Rolin (missed last season with knee injury)?
“We’ve been very careful in implementing him back in. He’s doing all the individual, he’s doing a lot of the drills that are 11-on-11. We’ve been cautious so far in 11-on-11 with him and that’s just to get him back full strength. We don’t want to hurry him into a situation he’s not ready for. But he’s cleared to do all that. It’s kind of us just watching his number of snaps.”
Q: Morrison has lost weight and appears to have a different attitude?
A: He has had a great camp. He has always been a guy very serious about football, practices hard and all those things. I think he has taken that to another level. His preparation off the field is as strong as it is on the field. He really understands how important this year is for him. I couldn’t be more pleased with how he’s approaching things and being a leader to other guys. He’s grabbing the defense when he has to.”
Q: Have you seen a shift in the team’s outlook with the first game almost here?
A: You saw it in the meetings last night and that was kind of when we were starting to talk about opponents. We’ve got guys perked up a little more in their seats. There’s kind of a light at the end of the tunnel. When you get to camp, it’s kind of like the dog days of summer, but now as of lately, we’re preparing. They love to compete. They love to play in front of our fans in the Swamp. So there’s a little glimmer in their eyes.