Speaking with the media on Monday during his weekly press conference, Vanderbilt Commodores head coach James Franklin spent five uninterrupted minutes praising the No. 4/6 Florida Gators and explaining how difficult of an opponent he believes his team is going to be facing in their home game on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Nashville, TN.
Franklin’s full comments on Florida (highlights underlined)…after the break!
“This week our match-up against Florida is an exciting one. Another opportunity to bring another top-five opponent in our stadium and another opponent ranked in the top-10 on our schedule. Excited about the opportunity. Tremendous respect for Will Muschamp and what he’s done in his second season there with that program. They’re 5-0 at this point and obviously a big win over LSU. Everybody has tremendous respect for LSU and their program.
“Coming in ranked fourth in the country, it’s the third time we’ve faced a top-10 opponent. Last year, you guys heard me talk before, I didn’t feel like the first half of last year we played with the same type of confidence that we played with when we came out in the second half and played well. The game ended up being 26-21, a very competitive game. So we want to build on what we’ve done this year. We want to build on our second half from last year as well. [...]
“Defensively…they’re a challenge. They’re a challenge. Watching that game the other day last weekend, it was impressive. The schemes that were run, the type of defensive players flying around on the field. I think Dan Quinn does a great job. They’ve got 10 returning starters. Listening to coach Muschamp talk and looking at their defense, the biggest difference is the depth. They’ve always recruited there well, but I think they have a two-deep now that they’re very confident with. They have Sharrif Floyd who last year was playing 70 plays a game; now he’s playing 45-50 and they are able to rotate people in there and keep those guys fresh. That makes it even more challenging.
“They play a 4-3. What’s challenging is they’re usually always 4-3. They’re usually always some type of mid-field cover-three, cover-one, loading the box up so they outnumber you in the box and then on the outside they press you. So they take any numbers away that you might have in the box for running – they outnumber you – and then they take away all the easy gimme throws with soft coverage on the outside and press you. So that when you watch the film, it doesn’t matter what formation you’re in or what personnel group, they always outnumber you in the box and press you on the outside. They’re basically saying, ‘We’re better than you.’ So there’s really no gimmes. There’s no formations, there’s no personnel groups where you can line up and say, ‘We have an advantage here,’ or ‘We can throw the hitch and they’re just going to allow us to throw the hitch and not give up the big play.’ That’s not their philosophy.
“The front four is extremely good. They’ve got tremendous depth. Overall athleticism of the defense I think is really good. They held LSU to just 200 yards of total offense. They had four sacks int eh game. One of the things that’s really interesting is they held their opponent in the second half, for the third time this year, to without a score. That’s really good second half football. They come out with a really good plan in the first half. They’re making some slight adjustments in the second half and playing really good in the second half.
“They got a lot of players who we’ve been impressed with. The guy that probably jumps out to us the most on defense is Sharrif Floyd, a young man who they were playing at defensive end some last year. They’ve moved him inside and he’s playing predominantly defensive tackle, and I think the fact that he’s a year older and they’re able to rotate and keep him fresh has really helped them. I could list another five or six players that we’re impressed with, but he’s the guy that probably jumps out the most to us.
“Offensively Brent Pease, who I’ve known for a long time and respected for a long time, has done a good job. Their offense is returning seven starters. What you see is a reflection of Coach Pease and what you see is a reflection of Coach Muschamp. They’re going to play really good special teams. They’re going to play really good defense. And they’re going to run the ball and mix in the pass on offense.
“There is a toughness to this team. I think the offensive line has improved as much as any position as we’ve seen in a year in the league. And they’ve got a running back who’s special. I think the quarterback is playing well; I think the running back has been player of the week in the conference twice already. They’ve got some versatility in their players. They got lots of speed at wide receiver. I think Jeff Driskel is playing well; he’s almost competed 70 percent of his passes. He’s a big, strong, physical guy. And then their running back [Mike] Gillislee I think is playing really, really well.
“You’re talking about a team that’s doing it on offense, doing it on defense, doing it on special teams. They’re well-coached. They have schemes that create conflict and cause challenges. They’re not a defense that’s going to say, ‘We’ll give up the five-yard pitch or the speed out.’ They’re going to try to take away every yard on the field. They’re not going to give you anything. Offensively, they’re going to try to run it down your throat and try to play with a toughness and a physicality. I’ve been impressed with them. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge. Our kids are excited about it, and our coaches are excited about it.”