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It’s Raw Reaction Week within the Florida fan base, and nobody is being spared.
While offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, head coach Jim McElwain and redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks are the primary focal points of the frustration, there are also fans venting about defensive coordinator Randy Shannon.
And that’s after a 17-16 loss Saturday in which the Florida defense held LSU scoreless for the final quarter-and-a-half and gave the Gators every chance to win …
Yeah, it’s been that kind of week.
Which brings us to the Tuesday Gators Mailbag Question of the Day:
Blake D. asks … “Do you think Randy Shannon has done a good job? I personally don’t.”
It’s way, way, way too soon to render such an opinion about Shannon, who is just five games into his first season as Florida’s defensive coordinator (after two years on the staff as a defensive assistant).
Yes, the Gators’ defense is far more vulnerable than it’s been in recent years, but it would be that way with Geoff Collins, too. This unit has sent two highly talented and experienced groups to the NFL the last two offseasons. Reloading after one of those is tough enough, but after back-to-back exoduses of elite talent there was going to be a drop-off this year. Eight players from the 2016 Gators defense have spent time on NFL rosters in 2017.
Then throw in the loss of fifth-year senior safety Marcell Harris to a season-ending right Achilles tendon injury before camp even started. We highlighted in this space last week how much the Gators are missing Harris in particular.
With all of the roster attrition, Shannon has been relying heavily on two freshmen cornerbacks teaming up with senior Duke Dawson, young linebackers across the board, and a banged-up veteran safety while rotating other first-year players through at safety and defensive tackle.
Florida is rebuilding its defense and laying a foundation with high-upside players who will be the next big wave of talent to head off to the NFL in a few years.
In the meanwhile, yeah, it’s not always going to look pretty.
The last two weeks McElwain has made mention of preparation deficiencies on the defensive side, noting that the Gators weren’t ready for Vanderbilt’s passing attack and should have been better equipped to handle LSU’s jet sweeps.
Florida looked flat-footed and caught off guard Saturday as the Tigers’ receivers ran all around the field in the first half. Give Shannon some blame for that, but also give him credit for the adjustments made at halftime and the key stops in the second half.
Throw him some criticism for Florida’s tackling woes, but also give him some credit for the play of the defensive line, which has consistently left its mark in the opposing team’s offensive backfield.
And give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to blitzing; perhaps there’s more he would like to do with blitz packages, but it’s tough to be overly aggressive with such a young secondary.
More than anything, though, give him some time. It’s way too soon to render a verdict on Shannon.
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