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Florida's Sensational Secondary Is Scary...Good!

Florida's Sensational Secondary Is Scary...Good!


In this look into the ultra-talented Florida Gators, we will discuss the huge uphill battle facing the Louisville Cardinal offense, mainly the receivers as they have to try and beat the #1 passing efficiency defense in the FBS. The defensive secondary is a big reason that on the year, no team has scored more than 26 points and that took the Florida State Seminoles doing it in the last weekend of the regular season. In fact, FSU, Louisiana Lafayette and Tennessee are the only teams to score 20 or more points against the Florida defense. As a team, Florida is #6 in the FBS with 19 interceptions and nearly half (9) have been by the hands of their starting defensive backs.

(Pictured at right, UF's Matt Elam #22 celebrates with his teammates - photo by

The Gator secondary is coached by Travaris Robinson which is in his second season at UF. Prior to coaching the Gators, Robinson was the secondary coach at Texas Tech in 2010, cornerbacks coach at Southern Mississippi in 2009, defensive backs coach at Western Kentucky in 2008 and a student/graduate assistant at Auburn in 2006 and 2007. Below is a list of his accomplishments gathered from

•In 2011, guided a UF secondary that ranked seventh in the nation in pass defense (166.8 yds/game). Overall, the Gator defense ranked eighth nationally in total defense (299.5 yds/game) and second in third-down defense (27.12 percent).

•Helped Texas Tech to a TicketCity Bowl victory over Northwestern in 2010, finishing the season with an 8-5 record while two of his defensive backs (Cody Davis, D.J. Johnson) were awarded 2010 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention recognition along with a third (Jarvis Phillips) earning Freshman All-American Honorable Mention from

•His 2009 Southern Miss squad finished in the top four in Conference USA in pass efficiency defense (130.7), interceptions (12) and yards per pass attempt (7.06) and he coached First Team All-C-USA selection DB Eddie Hicks.

•Served his first season as a full-time assistant coach with Western Kentucky in 2008 and assisted DB Ryan Beard in being named to the Sun Belt Conference All-Freshman team.

•During his 2006 season as a staff assistant at Auburn, the Tigers posted an 11-2 record and won the Cotton Bowl while reaching a national ranking as high as No. 2.

•After earning his degree, he remained with Auburn for 2007 as a graduate assistant, assisting with all aspects of the defense. He was responsible for opponent scouting, organizing scout teams for the defense and kicking game, video breakdown and computer data entry, the defensive scouting report and all aspects of on-campus recruiting. The Tigers finished 9-4 and won the Chick-Fil-A Bowl that season.

•Worked under Will Muschamp for his two seasons with the Auburn program.

So who will Robinson be sending out on the field against the Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals? Strong Safety, Matt Elam (5-foot-10, 202 lb Jr.) is the leader in interceptions with 4 and is also second on the team in tackles with 65. 10 of those 65 have been behind the line of scrimmage with one being a sack. Elam is a hard hitter and sure tackler and has forced a fumble this season. Equally impressive is that Elam is averaging 18.2 yards per INT return with a long of 42 yards. Free Safety, Josh Evans (6-foot-2, 201 lb Sr.) leads the team in tackles with 79 due to being well rounded and equally dominant against the run and pass. On the season, Evans has 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and 3 pass break ups. Starting Cornerbacks, Loucheiz Purifoy (6-foot-1, 189 lb So.) and Jaylen Watkins (6-foot-0, 187 lb Jr.) (#14 Jaylen Watkins intercepts a pass vs. Kentucky -photo by plenty of attention from opposing offensive coaches and both have very nice stats. Purifoy has 51 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 5 pass break ups and 3 forced fumbles! Possibly even more impressive is the fact that he has 2 blocked kicks. Watkins is second on the team with 3 interceptions and he’s averaging 14.7 yards per INT return with 1 touchdown and also 8 passes broken up. Only Marcus Roberson’s 12 passes broken up are better. Watkins doesn’t miss many tackles when his number is called either. 23 of his 35 total tackles have been unassisted.

  • An obvious reason for the huge success from the secondary is the size of the starters. They average 6’0.2” and 194.75 pounds and possess great quickness and top end speed. The Gators don’t sub in too many defensive backs but with talent like they have in their starters, they really don’t need to. The main subs are the aforementioned Marcus Roberson (6-foot-0, 178 lb So.) and De’Ante Saunders (5-foot-9, 189 lb So.). Roberson’s 12 PBU’s lead the team and he also contributed 20 tackles and 2 interceptions. Saunders, in limited duty collected 18 tackles, 1 interception and 4 PBU’s.
  • The top four Louisville receivers (Damian Copeland, Eli Rogers, DeVante Parker and Andrell Smith) going up against the starting DB’s of Florida should be a very good matchup. If the Cards have an advantage anywhere, it might just be that the Cards can keep enough fresh legs running routes and possibly take advantage late in the game if the UF secondary is getting winded.
  • The above bullet will still be a monumental challenge however and Teddy Bridgewater will need to be protected by his offensive line better than he has been all year so he can make the types of throws he’s made all year (albeit against weaker secondary’s) and keep putting up stellar statistics.

(#9 Josh Evans leads the Gators with 79 tackles - photo by

My Final Verdict?

I think that the offensive line will play like they’re capable of and give Teddy enough time to make a few big plays. The Louisville coaches know they are going to have to be able to run the ball successfully to win the game or even have a slight chance to but I think ultimately, they know that their best chance to pull the huge upset relies on the accuracy and management of Bridgewater along with a herculean defensive effort.

Don’t forget to come back to Cardinal Dominance on Thursday the 20th and check out Senior Writer, Lakinit’s look into the Gators quarterbacks and running backs and then again on Friday the 21st as I reveal the Florida linebackers. After the positional breakdowns are complete, CD recruiting guru, Dimori, will give us the “Tale of the Tape” for the game.

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