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Saturday January 3, 2009Coach Strong & Members Of UF Defense Meet With Media

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.


Select coaches and members of the University of Florida defense met with members of the media on Saturday, Jan. 3 in Ft. Lauderdale. Participating coaches and players included: defensive coordinator, associate head coach/linebackers Charlie Strong, junior linebacker Brandon Spikes, junior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, sophomore cornerback Joe Haden, redshirt junior linebacker Ryan Stamper, sophomore safety Ahmad Black and sophomore safety Major Wright.



On the defensive preparation so far:


COACH STRONG:  Preparation has been going very well.  Our major concern right now with Oklahoma is just the tempo, and we know this; we're going to have to tackle well.  They're on outstanding football team.  They do a great job of spreading the ball around on offense and have an outstanding quarterback in Bradford.  But our players understand what the task at hand is.  It's going to be a great challenge for us, and we're more than welcome for the challenge.


Our major concern when you look at us, each game we average anywhere from 60 to 65 plays a game, and when you look at their offense they're averaging anywhere from 85 to 90 plays a game, so it's more tempo, and what we've been trying to do, it's hard to really practice, just to simulate just getting those plays in.  But we've been trying to just practice at a fast tempo, and we're getting guys up on the football, and they are, they're averaging ‑‑ you look at them the last five games, 60‑plus points.  But the thing about it is we know this, we play good defense, and we just have to get lined up.  We have to get lined up on defense and we have to tackle well.


On Floridaís defense:


BRANDON SPIKES:  Well, I think we had a lot of younger guys just step up to the plate.  They made a personal decision, and they wanted to come out and play Florida tradition defense.  I think we've done that.  Our off‑season that was a really big part of it, younger guys kind of attack there, and we took that in and knew if we worked on it in the off‑season it would pay off, and I think that's what happened this season.  We've been playing good every Saturday, and stepping stones ‑‑ you know, after we got beat by Ole Miss that was the reality check for us that we were beatable and guys started doing all the smaller things, and it kind of worked out for us.


On Ryan Stamper and his impact on the Florida defense:


COACH STRONG:  Ryan Stamper is the most reliable football player on our team.  If you were to take a football player, and you can ask these two guys right here, if you were to take a guy on our football team and say who's a guy that you know you can always count on... Ryan Stamper. 


JOE HADEN:  I always mess with Stamper all the time, he's he looks a lot older than he is (laughter), so we call Stamper the grown man of the defense (laughter).  He just always does his job, just always kind of like Coach will tell you, left, right, right, left, be in this spot, be in position, and when you look at film, he'll say hold the B gap, Stamp is going to be in the B gap.  Just little stuff Coach tells him to do; he's always going to be there.


MAJOR WRIGHT:  Following up on what Joe said, Urban told him one day, "Hold your water in practice."  Stamp ended up holding his water the whole practice.  Coach told him, "Hey, you got to go," but Stamp is still holding his water (laughter).  It was kind of funny because Coach told him to hold his water and he ended up holding his water the whole practice. He's one of those guys that's accountable, he's a funny guy.  We talk a lot, and he's one of those guys that you can look up to.


AHMAD BLACK:  Me and Stamper are always joking around.  But I joke around him and tell him he's an accountable guy.  We joke around, but honestly he is an accountable guy.  Everybody on the team can count on Stamp to do his job and be in the right places at the right time.  Nobody has doubts about his abilities at all.


On the 2008 Florida defense compared to other units in Florida history:


COACH STRONG:  You know, like you said, in '06 we had a really good defensive football team, but we had a group of guys on that team with Moss, with Reggie Nelson, you had some first-rounders, and you're going to have some guys that are going to develop on this defense into first-rounders, but right now those guys haven't developed.  We have a defense now that is a good, solid team, a defensive team where guys understand that they don't want to let anyone else down, and that's the way they play each week.  They play like that.  I cannot let my teammate down. We always talk about win every play, and these guys understand that.  You have to win every play, and that's what they're trying to do, win every play.


On Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford:


BRANDON SPIKES:  I think Bradford does a great job of managing the offense.  He gets the guys lined up, they get the checks in and they're on the ball before you know it and they're running another play.  But as far as his running ability, he scans the defense and he knows what coverages are going on.  I think he does a really good job of that, and I think he does a good job of throwing the ball on a tight line.  If we're playing, man, we're going to have to stick him because he'll get the ball ‑‑ we can't let him really sit back and sling the ball.  That will kind of mess up our defensive scheme.  We want to pressure that guy. Other players on the team, I think the offensive line, they're really big and athletic, and so we've got to do a great job.  The linebackers got to come down here and try to get our blocks and make plays.


JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM:  With Sam being a Heisman winner, we've got to try to contain him, try to get pressure on him, try to keep him off rhythm because once he gets on rhythm; he's one of the best at throwing the ball.  He just reads the defense and controls the offense real good, so we've just got to make sure he don't get on rhythm.


On the advantage of experiencing a National Championship in 2006:   


BRANDON SPIKES:  Well, it's critical with the experience aspect.  We had guys like me and Jermaine in '06, we was able to experience that opportunity.  We were around guys that they knew what it took to get here, and they took what it took to win a championship.  With that on our hands, I think that will help us out.  We know what to expect as far as this phase of practicing.  When we get ready to practice, we can't really let outside distractions bother the team.  We've got to keep all the wash and stuff like that and most importantly keep the younger guys focused because it's very easy ‑‑ this place here in south Florida is very easy to get off the task what we're here for. 


COACH STRONG:  Like Brandon said, what's really critical is coming here two years ago, actually in Phoenix, just the whole experience.  And then just the preparation and getting guys ready to play, and then you look at the game, it's January the 8th, a lot of guys are already going to be finished by then.  But just our whole focus and the preparation of guys going out each day and competing.


On the turn-around of the UF secondary unit:


MAJOR WRIGHT:  I would say the dedication caused it.  The off‑season we really dedicated ourselves to this football season, saying that we're not going to let one another down.  We will not have another season like that, putting it all on the secondary.  That will never happen again.  A lot of guys, we kind of dedicated ourselves to watching more film, kind of doing things with one another, communicating out there on the field, and kind of just being around each other and kind of like just feeling everything around.


AHMAD BLACK:  I felt like coming in, same age as Major and Joe, but I felt like the young guy.  They started last year, so I came of kind of looking up to them, and I'm back there with Major helping me out along the way.  D‑Mo got here, so D‑Mo was still around helping me out and showing me the ropes.  I kind of felt like I couldn't let the guys back there with me down, as well as the guys in the front seven.  So doing my part and hanging out with these guys, them helping me out, and helping the secondary out, too.


JOE HADEN:  When we played against Michigan last year, we felt like it was a whole lot our fault.  But the thing that changed is last year we were all freshmen, really young, didn't really know what the college football was like.  That was my first year playing corner, Major was a freshman, too, just like me, so we felt like in the off‑season we knew we had to step it up if we was going to try to go farther than 9‑4.  So we felt like the big thing was we had to work on our stuff, get in the film room, and one thing that helped the corners out was Janoris came in and stepped up a whole lot.  And Coach Bedford came in and taught us different techniques.  He was in the NFL, so he taught us different stuff to watch when you watch film like routes and snaps and stuff like that.  So he helped us out a whole lot.







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