Florida Gators: Lorenzo Ward

SEC's lunchtime links

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
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Here we are at the end of another week, but thankfully a small taste of football is temporarily returning.

Let's take a look around the SEC as some schools have already opened spring practice and some are preparing for their first workout.

SEC lunchtime links

August, 28, 2013
8/28/13
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We're just a day away until the first game of the college football season and a few days until the season begins en masse. Here's a look at some of the stories from around the SEC to keep you informed:
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Defensive line coach Brad Lawing couldn’t bring Jadeveon Clowney with him when Florida coach Will Muschamp hired him away from South Carolina in January.

But Lawing did bring one of the things that helped Clowney become one of the country’s most feared pass rushers.

[+] EnlargeWill Muschamp
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesWill Muschamp and his defensive staff are tinkering with the rabbits package, in hopes of improving the Gators' D-line pressure.
It’s called the rabbits package, so named because it was designed to get as many speed rushers on the field as possible. Lawing and South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward developed it during spring 2012 and the Gamecocks used it successfully, racking up 40 sacks during the regular season.

Now Lawing, Muschamp and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin are tinkering with it as the Gators continue their preseason practices.

"Who will that package be?" Muschamp said. "We’re searching for the right guys. We think we have a pretty good handle on who they may be, but you never know. We’ve got to continue to search through those guys and find your best four rushers, and then who’s five, who’s six, who’s seven?"

Even though Florida’s pass rush was better last season than it had been the previous two (the Gators recorded 30 sacks in 2012, the most since it had 40 in 2009), there’s plenty of room to improve. The Gators appear to have the personnel to be better, especially with the return of redshirt junior buck Ronald Powell, and adding the rabbits package will certainly help.

It’s easy to identify UF’s top four pass rushers: Powell, sophomore Dante Fowler Jr., sophomore Jonathan Bullard and senior Dominique Easley. Powell and Fowler are hybrid defensive ends/strongside linebackers. Bullard is an end and Easley can play both end and tackle. The group, which has a combined 16.5 career sacks, are all starters but also will likely comprise the rabbits package, with Easley moving over to nose tackle.

Bullard and Fowler played key roles as freshmen last season, helping pick up the slack in the rush that was created when Powell (seven career sacks) suffered a torn ACL in the spring game and missed the entire season. Bullard led the team with seven quarterback hurries, while Fowler had 2.5 sacks.

Muschamp said Powell has looked very good in camp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease said the pass rush has given the offense trouble.

"They’re very athletic," Pease said. "When you have Easley and Bullard and then you throw in Dante. Now Dante, depending how they use him, he’s such a weapon because he’s a down guy, pass rusher, pass coverage guy, very physical, he’s so heavy-handed. He’s a tough kid to block.

"And then when you throw Ronald in there ..."

Muschamp isn’t sure how much he’s going to use the rabbits package. He said the Gators did a solid job with the pass rush last season and the addition of Powell and the maturation and improvement of Fowler and Bullard should automatically make them better.

Plus, Florida plays mostly man coverage and offenses counter that with six- and seven-man protections to give quarterbacks extra time to throw the ball.

"I think we gave up less explosive plays in the passing game than anybody in the country [last season]," Muschamp said. "I think we gave up less touchdowns than [all but four] teams in the country. So I think we were very efficient in the passing game. And that's not just from a coverage standpoint, that's from a rush standpoint."

But it’s nice to have the package available, especially if it allows the Gators to begin to develop younger players like redshirt freshmen Bryan Cox Jr. and Alex McCalister.
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ATLANTA -- Two of the Peach State’s top outside linebackers recently met in the backfield of the Rising Seniors Bowl game and threw down the West team’s quarterback, Brooks Barden (Cartersville, Ga./Cartersville). Bryson Allen-Williams (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove) came of the right end and Dante Sawyer (Flowery Branch, Ga./North Gwinnett) crashed the left side and both caught Barden before he could slip away. While it was clear Barden never had a chance, credit for the sack was a highly-contested debate.

“Oh, that was my sack.” Allen-Williams said. “Look, Dante and I had a little bet going on to see who would get the most sacks, so we ended up tying on them. So you know [when] there are two good ends on this field, you’re bound to have a good pass rush every now and then.”

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Scouting report: South Carolina

October, 15, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 3 Florida, which sits atop the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division, plays host to No. 9 South Carolina on Saturday at Florida Field. Here’s a look at the Gamecocks:

SOUTH CAROLINA

Record: 6-1 (4-1 SEC).

Coach: Steve Spurrier, eighth season (61-36); 23rd season overall (203-76-2).

Series record: Florida leads 23-6-3.

Top players: QB Connor Shaw (75-108-4, 910 yards, 9 TDs; 280 yards, 1 TDs rushing); RB Marcus Lattimore (584 yards, 10 TDs); DE Jadeveon Clowney (31 tackles, 6.5 sacks); LB Shaq Wilson (44 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 2 INTs).

Scouting the offense: Lattimore shows no sign of any lingering effects of the torn ACL he suffered in the seventh game of the 2011 season. He’s averaging 83.4 yards per game rushing. Shaw struggled in last week’s loss to LSU, but the junior has been solid this season. He’s not a great passer, but he’s getting the job done thanks to a couple of good receivers in Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders, both of whom have 17 catches. Lattimore is also a big factor in the passing game (team-high 22 catches). The Gamecocks are playing similar offensive football to Florida. They want to be physical and run the ball and make just enough plays in the passing game to keep teams from selling out to stop the run.

Scouting the defense: The defense ranked third nationally in total defense last season but lost defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson to Southern Mississippi. New coordinator Lorenzo Ward has picked up right where Johnson left off, though. The Gamecocks are giving up just 12.3 points per game (second in the SEC) and allowing teams only 296.3 yards per game (third in the SEC). South Carolina leads the SEC in sacks (26), with Clowney leading the way. He’s a force on either end of the line and the Gamecocks like to move him around. The Gamecocks have only given up three touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns, numbers which are bested only by Alabama in the SEC.

Three keys to watch:

Shaw was yet another mobile quarterback who hurt the Gators last season, rushing for 88 yards and two TDs in the Gamecocks’ 17-12 victory. UF has been much better against mobile QBs this season, though. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel hurt the Gators in the first half, but UF bottled him up in the second half and have been much more disciplined since then. Vandy QB Jordan Rodgers hurt the Gators with his feet last season but was no factor on Saturday. UF needs to contain Shaw and force him to throw because that’s a matchup the Gators should win. Even with the emergence of Sanders and Ellington, the Gators have the advantage because of how well the secondary has been playing.

LSU limited Lattimore to 35 yards and one touchdown, and the Gators need to mimic the Tigers’ approach: Gang tackle, don’t give up double-digit yardage runs, and make him work for every yard he gets. That means the defensive line is going to have to play better than it did against Vanderbilt. The Commodores pushed the Gators around a bit and ended up rushing for 126 yards.

UF’s offensive tackles (Chaz Green and Xavier Nixon/D.J. Humphries) are going to have to play as well as they did against LSU to keep Clowney from setting up camp in the backfield. LSU’s embattled offensive line did a good job against the Gamecocks and Clowney. They had just one sack and it wasn’t from Clowney. With Nixon’s status up in the air because of an upper body injury, expect the Gamecocks to pick on Humphries and line up Clowney against the true freshman as much as possible.

 
ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation is previewing each of Florida’s 2012 opponents. Today is South Carolina (Oct. 20 in Gainesville).

Steve Spurrier and Connor Shaw
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackIn Connor Shaw, Steve Spurrier may have his best fit at quarterback since he's been at South Carolina.
SOUTH CAROLINA

2011 record: 11-2 (6-2 SEC), beat Nebraska 30-13 in Capital One Bowl.

Coach: Steve Spurrier, eighth season (55-35); 23rd season overall (197-75-2).

Series record: Florida leads 23-6-3.

Top returners: QB Connor Shaw (123-188-6, 1,448 yards, 14 TDs; 525 yards, 8 TDs rushing); RB Marcus Lattimore (818 yards, 10 TDs); DE Jadeveon Clowney (36 tackles, 8 sacks); FS D.J. Swearinger (80 tackles, 3 INTs).

Did you know? The Gamecocks are 8-0 over the past two seasons against rivals Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Clemson.

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