Florida vs. Miami: 1st True Benchmark of the Season for Gators D

Allison Banko@@allisonbankoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2013

By now, everyone and their mother (and their mother's mother) know that Florida's defense has its work cut out for it against Miami.

The Hurricanes' offense, with an arsenal of mad-fast wide receivers, an experienced quarterback in Stephen Morris and, oh yeah, Duke-freaking-Johnson, presents the Gators with their biggest challenge on Saturday. 

But that's not all bad news for Florida. No matter what the outcome, this weekend will serve as the first true benchmark of the season for the Gators' defense. If you think Toledo was any sort of a test, you're drunk. Go home. 

During his press conference on Wednesday, UF defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin outlined all the challenges that'll be facing his guys—namely Johnson.

"That guy can put his foot in the ground and change the score on any down," Durkin told the media, as reported by GatorVision. "He's a fast guy, a quick guy—great at changing direction....He's a total package."

He added that containing Johnson would surely be a team effort. How the defense fares at containing Johnson will reveal a lot about its communication skills. Controlling him is going to demand knowing where he is on the field at all times

Can Florida pull together as a unit? Saturday will answer that. 

UF's defensive head honcho (and the rest of us) could pinpoint key issues exposed by the opener—for example, penalties and jumping offside, which he said are "totally manageable." OK, so if they're so manageable, can UF effectively eliminate those errors this week?

Again, Miami will be the first time this season that we'll get to see that come into play. 

On top of everything else, the rivalry matchup will paint a more complete picture of Florida's defensive depth.

On Saturday, the defense returns previously suspended middle linebacker Antonio Morrison, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and defensive tackle Darious Cummings. In the press conferenceDurkin said Morrison will be playing "quite a bit" on Saturday, so we'll be able to get a glimpse into what he and the rest of the returners can offer the defense.   

Although UF's defense will have its hands full on Saturday, the most important things the Gators will hold on the ride out of Miami are some answers.