All offensive coordinators and play-callers — whether head coaches, assistants or youth league dads — fret constantly about the players on their teams getting things right and then executing them.
But they also must account for “The Disruptors.”
Those are the guys on the other side of the ball who can waylay the best-laid plans a coach might have stayed up all night preparing.
Yes, the whole goal of all defenders is to disrupt things. It can be done in a variety of ways — a big hit, speed you can’t prepare for, the instincts that allow a defender to take away what worked well in practice.
We have seen some great ones at Florida, and for this Dooley’s Dozen, we look at the top 12 Gator Disruptors.
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There have been numerous great defensive backs at Florida, but the reason I put Kennedy on here is because of his ability to disrupt the passing game by getting in the way. We all remember the iconic interception return for a touchdown against Tennessee (which disrupted some eardrums), but the key stat is Kennedy started from his freshman year and is second all time in pass breakups with 39.
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Nothing disrupts a drive like a fumble recovery. Nobody was better at finding that loose ball than the Florida linebacker. He recovered seven in one year (2005) and I will never forget the sound of him hitting a Kentucky receiver near the sideline that season when I was down on the field. It scared me.
He is Florida’s all-time sacks leader and that is pretty disruptive. But remember when he dislodged the helmet from Tee Martin’s noggin? He also forced nine fumbles during his career. Sounds Ring of Honor worthy to me.
Joe Rudis/The Tennessean
Speaking of the Ring of Honor. The skinny kid from Monticello was the guy you had to account for on the Gators’ defense from 1968-70. He was so quick that he’d often get to the running back at the same time the ball did. His forced and recovered fumble changed the game against Georgia in 1970.
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Galloway was an impressive run stopper for the Gators from 1977-81, but he was so quick that he would surprise the guards and center trying to block him. He finished his career with 21 sacks and no defensive tackle for UF ever had more.
AP Photo/Tom Strattman
Here’s another defensive tackle that was dominant because he was able to combine quickness with power. Just being named the MVP of the 1994 SEC title game should be enough to get him on this list. That season he also forced five fumbles and finished his career with 37 tackles for a loss, which is the No. 1 “Disruptor” stat.
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OK, so we all remember the hit Wright put on Joey Kent. But it wasn’t like that’s all he ever did. He was pretty good at pulling balls out of the air and forced seven fumbles during a career that ended with the Jim Thorpe Award.
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Brantley is second all-time in tackles at Florida and I guarantee that his opponents felt every one of them. And those 467 tackles happened despite losing almost all of his senior season to a head injury. Brantley told me once that when he tackled someone, he always tackled through the ball carrier.
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Certainly, one of the great players in UF history was a walk-on who transformed his body into a hitting machine. In addition to his five fumble recoveries and 11 interceptions, no player in UF history had more pass break-ups than Oliver did in 1987 (19).
UCLA’s Troy Aikman sacked by Florida’s Clifford Charlton. AP Photo
Two things that mattered to me when putting together this list – players who caused fumbles and tackles for a loss. Those are very disruptive. Charlton may have been a bust in the pros, but his 15 forced fumbles during his career are easily the most ever at Florida. And he is fifth all time in tackles for a loss.
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“The Freak” doesn’t show up on the stat sheet a whole lot because of what Florida asked him to do during his three seasons. Bobby Stoops used him to, well, disrupt. The offense didn’t know whether he was going to rush or stand up with his wingspan and take away the line of sight. Very disruptive and it showed in the overall team defensive stats.
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You already knew he was No. 1. It wasn’t just the way he disrupted an entire USC game plan. He did that a lot. Nobody ever had any more tackles for a loss (58) and he is fifth all-time in sacks (23). He is in the Ring of Honor and deserves to be.
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