There's been a lack of content around here in the last week, and I'm sorry about that, but I have answered some questions for some other folks, including Matt Repchak of Florida Citrus Sports for the Capital One Bowl's Florida preview. Here's the most important question and answer from that piece.
Wait a second, the defense returns 10 starters? From a 2011 team that managed to hold serve from 2010 with a whole crop of new players? Do people know about this?! Should offensive coordinators in the SEC be seeing Dan Quinn’s face in their nightmares, or do the Gators still have room to grow on D this year?
People do! Will Muschamp's said that a few times, but that number's a bit of a misnomer right now thanks to Ronald Powell's ACL tear; Florida likely won't play all 10 returning starters until at least October, and only then if no one else gets hurt before Powell recovers. That said, Florida was great on defense in 2011 without getting much from Powell in the first place and despite a season-long struggle to force turnovers. With a young secondary slowly molting into a veteran unit, look for Quinn to take more chances and create more havoc, giving this Florida defense a chance to go from great to devastating.
I think Florida's defense was close to elite last year — and I'm almost sure we're underrating Florida's ability on defense this year. Florida forced just 14 turnovers, a historic low, and was forced to play vanilla defense by a secondary that didn't have the man coverage chops needed to deploy exotic blitzes. A year of seasoning for that secondary should help with the Muschamp/Quinn comfort level, if nothing else, and help them make the decisions to let slip the dogs of war from time to time.
If those dogs, talented ones on the defensive line and in the linebacking corps, start biting opposing quarterbacks instead of baying at them, Florida could have one of the best defenses in the nation again. And it could be a much better defense than the one that was always hanging around greatness in 2011. If that ain't scary, it should be.