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Durkin talks pass rush, Gerald Willis & more

03_140807_DurkinDJ_0381_TimCasey(Courtesy gatorzone.com)

GAINESVILLE -- While all eyes will be on Florida’s revamped offense this fall, the Gators’ defense hopes to improve its consistency too.

Coordinator D.J. Durkin spearheaded the nation’s No. 8 unit in 2013, but dispirited by the team’s woeful attack and a season-ending injury to leader Dominique Easley, the defense never found its true traction.

Florida returns seven starters this year, led by all-conference stars Dante Fowler Jr. and Vernon Hargreaves III. The secondary is inexperienced, albeit with a slew of talent, while Florida’s linebackers are a talented but enigmatic group.

Recently, Durkin discussed a number of topics, including the desire to improve the team’s pass rush, the youth in the defensive backfield and more.

On Florida’s pass rush…

“Our guys have done a good job all through camp with that. We’re finding some more guys that can win some one-on-ones. Coach Lawing is doing a great job with those guys. They’re developing. We’ve got to keep them coming. …Dante Fowler’s doing a great job. Jon Bullard’s doing a great job, Alex McCalister’s coming on; We’re even using Neiron Ball and Jeremi Powell in pass rush situations up at defensive end. I think those guys can really get it. We’ll keep it going. Gerald Willis is a young guy too.” 

On Willis’ role this season…

“[He’ll play] Somewhere. Somewhere.  He can play, he’s good. He’ll play and help us. Gerald’s got to keep learning the defense and being in the right spot and all the typical things for a normal freshman. But he’s going to play."

On the five freshmen in the secondary…

“It's been great. We've had great competition. Competition makes everyone better, and they're battling really good. So Quincy [Wilson], J.C. [Jackson], Jalen Tabor, Duke Dawson, all those guys out there, Deiondre Porter as well, they've all had days where you could say this guy is better than the other. But the good news is they're all competing and playing well. They're going to help us."

On key adjustment for young cornerbacks…

"The biggest thing with guys coming out of high school is breaking some habits they may have of things they were doing and got away with in high school technique-wise that we've got to break. They're doing a good job with it. They're taking coaching well and getting rid of those habits. The receivers they're going against every day, those guys are pretty darn good they're going against. They're seeing game speed right now from those guys. That to me has them prepared well because of who they're going against."

On Marcus Maye's emergence at nickel-back...

"That was something we just tried out here going into camp and he's looked really good doing it. Obviously, he has great coverage ability. That nickel spot is a unique thing. That guy's got to be able to bliz, cover, man cover, zone cover, do all those things. Marcus kind of has a feel for it."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

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