It was hard to figure out what to expect from Florida’s defense heading into this season. Last year, the Gators frequently got torched by good offenses, but the defense’s ability to shut down bad offenses made the overall numbers look not terrible.
As for the first part, well, Florida has only played one good offense in five games this season — and actually, against Alabama, the defense was credible, surrendering just 331 yards on 5.3 yards per play, though they did give up 31 points.
Anyway, for a matchup against Vanderbilt, the second part is probably more relevant — and on that front, Florida’s defense has performed well. Against Florida Atlantic, the defense gave up 14 points (all in the fourth quarter), though it did allow five yards per play. Against South Florida: 20 points (17 in the second half, when the game was already well in hand) on 4.2 yards per play. Against Tennessee: 14 points, albeit on 6.2 yards per play (granted, after last week it’s fair to say Tennessee’s offense might be closer to good than bad.) Against Kentucky: 4.9 yards per play and 14 points (the Wildcats scored a touchdown on a blocked field goal in a 20-13 win.)
In other words, this is probably a defense that is going to shut down Vanderbilt’s offense, which is probably the worst offense they’ve faced this season and really only South Florida is even in the ballpark.
Senior defensive end Zachary Carter has been the breakout star of the Gator defense, with eight tackles for loss and five sacks through the season’s first five games, but the defensive line as a whole is a strength as the Gators are allowing 3.4 yards per rush attempt. Alabama couldn’t even run the ball on this defense, netting just 91 yards on 28 carries.
The pass defense is fine, too; Bryce Young picked on this defense (but what defense doesn’t he pick on?) but other than that, nobody has been able to beat the Gators deep. They have a couple of active safeties in the redundantly-named Trey Dean III and Tre’Vez Johnson, though star cornerback Kaiir Elam has missed the last two games with an injury.
In other words... well, this defense is probably shutting down the Vanderbilt offense.