GAINESVILLE, FL - APRIL 10: Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin of the Florida Gators during the Orange & Blue game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on April 10, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
We continue our season preview, "Gators Rebuilding 2010." Until kickoff on Sept. 4 against Miami-Ohio, we will have a series of posts on players, positions and factors that will determine the Gators' success or failure this season. For all previous posts tagged as "Gators Rebuilding 2010" click here.
For the first time since 2001, Charlie Strong will not be coaching the Gators defense. Gone is a man who spent 16 years at UF, the last eight as coordinator. In his place is Teryl Austin, who might as well have come to UF off the side of a milk carton. He has never been a coordinator, but has coached defensive backs at major colleges and the NFL.
We don't know what to make of Austin yet. With Strong, his defenses were based on the talent he had. That's why UF was so good in 2006, 2008 and 2009 when they had older players, but nearly awful in 2005 and 2007 in rebuilding mode. Will Austin look at the talent around him, mostly in the secondary, and rely on their speed? Or will it be something else?
Austin hasn't committed to a 4-3, 3-4 or 3-3-5, which is exactly how Strong worked. At times, Florida's front seven rotation made it seem as if they were running a 3-4, when they were a 4-3 team. The 3-3-5 is a 3-4 with a monster back. I would think Austin would at least start the same way.
What will be interesting to see is how much reliance is placed on who ever wins the middle linebacker position. We remember the struggle Brandon Spikes had in 2007, but forget that he also had Ryan Stamper, who was seen as the Gators' smartest defensive player. With Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic, they will have elder statesmen on the outsides, but MLB is still the motor of the defense. How much will Austin protect his players by making as many calls from the sideline as possible?
The two remaining position battles at MLB and cornerback (Moses Jenkins and Jeremy Brown) will sort themselves out. But we will have to wait a few games to see if the personality and style of the defense has changed at all.