Difference in chemistry

Quinn is overseeing a strong defense this year

The second year in a defensive scheme has played a big role in the success of the Florida defense. There are more turnovers forced, and the unit is on the field for less time than last season. Comfort in the scheme has played a big role in both areas, but the chemistry has also improved on and off the field. The players are closer after what they went through in 2011, and it has helped this year.

"I think it has played a big role," Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. "When you have that type of chemistry, there's a little bit of, ‘I'll push you as hard as you'll push me' and knowing that you're not going to get bent out of shape if I tell you, ‘hey, pick it up.' It's not uncommon for guys to get on each other, ‘let's go, we're counting on you here.'

"That kind of camaraderie of people who genuinely care about each other and are playing for each other adds into the collective where we're all in it together."

After losing just one starter from the 2011 defense, it was plenty of the same players in meeting rooms and offseason workouts. They all experienced the six-loss season last year and felt embarrassed by it. When the freshman class got to Gainesville and became entrenched in the program, the veterans wanted to share the hurt from 2011 with the younger players to help it drive them, too.

It was already driving the veterans. With so much returning talent for the Gators, there was chemistry that was forced by the struggles of last season. They worked hard in the weight room and studied film with the painful memories of seeing their mistakes again.

"When you go through a tough struggle together, it can go either way," Quinn said. "For the guys that got tight and understood that some of the games and experiences we went through weren't positive. How do you draw from that and get closer? For those guys that are here and went through some of that, there's an appreciation for the other man sitting next to you know that he won't let you down."

After an uninspiring season opener against Bowling Green, Quinn watched as his defense hit the road and found their stride. During the second half of the game at Texas A&M, the Gators showed their transition into one of the most dominant defenses in the country.

Just as they had pounded into their heads in the offseason, it didn't come without adversity. Freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel was running and throwing his offense up and down the field and led the Aggies to a halftime lead. That's when the Florida defense focused on staying disciplined and allowed just one first down in the first 24 minutes of the second half.

"That was the first real test. We're behind. How are we going to handle this?" Quinn asked rhetorically, remembering the game. "You would hope that a team would respond in the right way, but I do feel like you kind of have to go through some of those tests and come out the other end in a positive way to gain momentum and experience and coming together."

It's familiar rhetoric from the coaches, which Quinn noted, but he insists its true. No one really knew what was happening during the 2011 season. The coaches were still trying to find the right way to motivate the team during their first year in the program, while the players will still unsure about the scheme and their role on both sides of the ball.

They bought in during the offseason, and the results are impossible to deny as the Gators head into Saturday's game with a 8-1 record.

"They're in it together and know what this season is about and what we're doing," Quinn said. "It didn't just start recently. This went all the way through to the spring and summer. We knew we had a lot of the men coming back from last year's team. Those guys are connected. How do the new people fit in and how does it all come together? Because each year is different.

"I've been pleased with the chemistry. As you know, that's not always the easiest thing. It doesn't just happen. For those guys to stay connected, it has been really important for us."

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