Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media this week to provide some thoughts on the Gators and their first road opponent of 2014, the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide, ahead of Saturday afternoon’s road game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
HOT TOPICS: OFFENSE
» Roper on the challenges that Alabama’s defense provides: “These guys do a great job of contesting every pass. They like to press the receivers and pattern match a lot of things. They’re running with a lot of receivers. When we looked at the explosive plays, in a four-game breakdown, there were like 15 explosive passes, which are 16 yards or more for us. A lot of them, they’re just big-time plays by wide receivers with [defensive backs] right on them. They don’t give you a lot of layups. They’re hard to get separation from.
“They add the ability to rush the passer on top of that, shortening the time. Those are challenges. They’re physical up front and can get off blocks and make the run game difficult. They’re a well-coached defense, physical defense. It’s a challenge, an SEC football game in those standards, obviously playing one of the best minds in football between those guys on defense doing it and good football players. You see similarities to Florida State, but they all have their differences.”
» Roper on how much head coach Will Muschamp being familiar with Nick Saban helps him in preparation: “Obviously that’s helpful to have those conversations to maybe clarify some things as we start watching film, saying, ‘OK, why are they doing this? What’s going on here?’ So, you know obviously that is an advantage of things that are going on.”
» Roper on Saban’s past struggles when preparing for up-tempo offenses: “Obviously you hope that maybe causes some issues for a defense in communication and those type things. So it’s something that obviously we want to go in and try to get accomplished to try to play the game fast to maximize as many plays as we possibly can while being efficient. That’s the biggest thing that you look at against these guys is efficiency is not as high against other people.”
» Roper on whether he has been hiding features of Florida’s offense: “We’re trying to win the game at hand. Just like last week, I promise you I wasn’t hiding anything. We were trying to get as many points as we possibly could. A game dictates what take place. [The Wildcats] came out and were completely different than their first two games that we had watched on tape from this. They had changed, so all of a sudden we go to working as an offensive staff saying, ‘OK, what are the answers to what they’re doing?’ You don’t wait ’til halftime; you’re sitting there doing it immediately, so sometimes that’s what you see what you see during a game. We’re answering what they’re doing to us.”
» Roper on whether UF’s up-tempo style will help limit UA’s ability to rotate defensive linemen: “Maybe you get the chance to keep some guys on the field longer than they want to keep them on the field. It’s probably the biggest thing that you see. That’s what defensive coaches talk about, the inability to substitute some and keep guys fresh. It obviously gives you that advantage if you can stay on the field. It’s the challenge to put first downs together and these guys don’t give up a whole lot of first downs. They don’t make it easy.”
HOT TOPICS: DEFENSE
» Durkin on Florida’s secondary giving up big plays to Kentucky: “We made mistakes with our eye discipline. That was something we talked about going in the game: when you face a tempo team, you’ve got to get lined up and get your eyes in the right place and react and see it. On those particular plays we didn’t [do that], so that’s something obviously we’re working on to correct. … I think the guys, they played really hard, played with great effort. It was just a matter of – on those plays we weren’t looking at the right thing.”
» Durkin on the challenges presented by Alabama QB Blake Simms: “He’s very dangerous on his feet. He creates plays on the ground when the pocket breaks down. There are some designed runs to him, but I think sometimes when it’s not designed plays, they do a good job of moving the pocket with him. And I think he throws it well and delivers the ball well for them, too. He’s a dangerous guy, and we’ve got to be really conscious of where he’s at and containing him and keeping him in front of us because he can beat you either way – throwing or running it.”
» Durkin on the Crimson Tide’s offensive line: “They’re a physical unit. They want to establish the run, establish the line of scrimmage. That’s how they’ve always been. That’s what they hang their hat on offensively. We know that; it’s a big challenge for us. We’ve got to go play physical and control the line of scrimmage on our end.”
» Durkin on UF’s strong run defense standing up against UA’s talented running backs: “It’s a different challenge this week. I think these guys are far more committed to the run than the teams we’ve faced thus far. And so, they’ve got some very good, talented guys carrying the ball. They do a great job getting off blocks and tackling well and, you know, gang tackling, getting to the ball. They’re good enough to make guys miss and break tackles. We need more guys to get in there.”