Floyd back just in time for Gators
Posted: Friday, September 16, 2011 11:44 pm
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s Sharrif Floyd watched from the sideline the first two games, unable to change his situation, unable to help his defense.
The sophomore defensive lineman sat out the season opener while under NCAA investigation, then missed another game after the governing body ruled he received $2,700 from an individual not associated with the university. He was ordered to sit two games and arrange to repay the money to charity. The decision devastated Floyd, who had tears in his eyes as coach Will Muschamp told him he couldn’t play.
His return against rival Tennessee on Saturday could be equally emotional.
“Getting Sharrif Floyd, that does a lot for our team,” teammate Lerentee McCray said. “Just motivation, just bringing our brother along. … It gives us a real big boost going into an SEC game.”
A much-needed boost, too.
The 16th-ranked Gators (2-0) failed to record a sack in last week’s game against UAB, and Muschamp has repeatedly said he wants more pressure from his defensive ends.
Floyd’s return should help. He played in every game last year and emerged from fall practice as one of the team’s most versatile and disruptive defenders.
“He’s a great athlete, real strong guy, real powerful,” Gators center Jonotthan Harrison said. “Sharrif is an amazing pass rusher. He’s real good, real versatile, everything on the line. He’s still pretty quick for a big guy.”
The Volunteers (2-0) have noticed. Coach Derek Dooley said the Gators “probably have the most talented defensive line in the country” with Floyd, McCray, Dominique Easley, Jaye Howard, Omar Hunter and Ronald Powell.
“We’re going to have to block for these guys,” Dooley said. “It doesn’t matter how open you are, if you can’t deliver the ball to them it doesn’t matter. That’s going to be our biggest challenge. This is as athletic and big as a defensive front as you’ll see in college football. They’re good. They just roll right through the offensive line.”
Tennessee rolled its first two opponents, scoring at least 40 points in both games as sophomore Tyler Bray completed 79 percent of his passes for 698 yards and seven touchdowns. Last week, Bray became the second player in school history to threw for 400 yards in a game.
After putting up gaudy numbers against Montana and Cincinnati, Bray now leads the conference in passing yards, total offense and pass efficiency.
“He has certainly played two very good football games,” Dooley said. “He has put a big investment in trying to be good. You see it on the practice field. When you are putting a lot of investment and you are committing yourself to being good and you are playing good, then you have the ability to affect others in a positive way.”
The Gators believe the key to beating Tennessee is stopping running back Tauren Poole and getting steady pressure on Bray. And it starts with the defensive front.
Florida leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just a field goal in lopsided wins over Florida Atlantic and UAB.
Published in The Messenger 9.16.11