Job 1: Stop Braxton Miller
Florida's run defense will be tested by the Ohio State freshman quarterback
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As they prepare for the Jan. 2 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Florida's players aren't getting too caught up in the fact that former coach Urban Meyer is now the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes.
They're more worried about Braxton Miller.
The Ohio State freshman is a mobile quarterback who leads the Buckeyes in rushing. Stopping him will be a problem for the Gators because they've struggled with containing mobile quarterbacks all season, most notably being decimated by South Carolina's Connor Shaw.
"So I mean, good luck."
Miller has run for 695 yards and seven touchdowns and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, so the Gators will need more than luck to minimize his effectiveness on the ground. They'll need to be more disciplined on the edge of the defense.
That means the ends can't lose contain when they're rushing and the defensive backs can't get blocked when Miller does get the edge. He's going to run because that's they way he plays, but the Gators have to keep him from 20-yard gains. Limiting those gains to only 5 yards is a win for the defense.
UF wasn't able to do that against South Carolina in the first half. Shaw ran 11 times for 71 yards and two touchdowns to help the Gamecocks take a 14-3 lead at the break. Seven of Shaw's runs either converted third downs or went for touchdowns. He ran for 18 yards on third-and-1 and 5 yards on fourth-and-2 and scored on runs of 10 and 1 yards.
Shaw finished with 88 yards on 16 carries.
But Shaw wasn't the only quarterback who hurt Florida with his feet. Kentucky's Morgan Newton ran for 50 yards on six carries, Auburn's Kiehl Frazier had 41 yards on eight carries, and Vanderbilt's Jordan Rodgers had 20 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries. Some of Rodgers' carries were scrambles out of pressure that led to completions. He threw for 297 yards and two scores.
With that type of precedent, UF defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has made sure to emphasize rush discipline.
"When you have a mobile quarterback, you've really got to do a good job of taking care of the edges," said Quinn, whose unit is giving up 132.3 yards per game rushing. "Sometimes a mobile quarterback might mean he is just dropping back for a regular pass play but now the play broke down and he tried to create on his own. So for us it's going to be real important to take care of the edges."
The players understand. After watching tape of what Shaw did against them, they know the game's outcome depends on stopping Miller.
"You can't lose [the edge]," Floyd said. "If you lose it, thank you, he's gone."
Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.