With the Florida Gators just days away from their fifth game of the season under head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. against the Alabama Crimson Tide, he spoke during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference to provide some insight about where his team is at going into into week five action.
RUNNING PARAMOUNT TO PLAYING WINNING FOOTBALL
For Muschamp, being effective in running the ball and stopping the run are characteristics that he wants to help define the Gators. In addition to that, he believes those abilities will result in Florida being successful for the long haul.
“I have not and I don’t know that I’ve seen one,” Muschamp said when asked if he’s seen a winning team operate without a solid running game. “Running the football is number one to me, it creates toughness on your football team. You’re going to come to times in your schedule – whether it’s in the red zone or to end the game – it’s just a matter of toughness to me. Stopping the run and playing the run. I always wanted, when I got a head coaching opportunity, to be balanced in what you do.
“When you’re multiple and you’re balanced in what you do, now you get [the defense] a little uncomfortable. Generally when defenses are uncomfortable or unsure, that’s when they don’t play well – even if it’s good players. It’s a total program deal to me as far as running the football. You got to be able to do that to develop toughness.”
Even though running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey are a pair of undersized (for their position) speedsters, Muschamp said the Gators have concentrated on using them inside as well as outside the tackles.
“They’ve been very effective. Charlie [Weis] has used them very well. The perimeter run game has been very good, but we’ve also run the ball well inside. That’s something we’re committed to doing regardless of the size of our backs,” he said. “If you do one thing too much, the defenses – they watch film too. They’re going to hold the edges and if you don’t run the ball inside. We still run the inside and we still run the power off tackle. We utilize all of the same run game with both Jeff and Chris in there because of defenses trying to stop what you do best. We’ve been very effective with the inside and outside running game.”
ADDING TEXAS A&M WON’T CHANGE RECRUITING PLANS
“That’s where we’re going to win championships, with players from the state of Florida,” he said. “That’s where we recruit first and then after that the southeast regions, the ties that our assistant coaches have in certain areas obviously, and then nationally looking at some guys we think can come in and make a difference.”
He also noted that, just because Texas A&M has joined the SEC does not mean Texas high school football players will suddenly have more of a reason to leave the state.
“Having worked in the state of Texas, a lot of those guys growing up in Texas want to be Longhorns and some of them want to be Aggies and Oklahoma has always done a good job in the Dallas-Fort Worth and East Texas area,” he said. “If there’s an attachment to Florida with a young man from the state of Texas, we’ll certainly recruit him if they’re athletically and academically what we’re looking for. I do think [recruiting will] open up a little bit, but I don’t think you’ll see a huge change of guys all of a sudden leaving the state of Texas to go to different places.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp reiterated in his opening statement that the entire team is healthy except for redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown, who will neither dress nor play on Saturday.
» Muschamp on if he’s pleased where Florida is through four games: “Well exactly. We’re 4-0. That’s where we wanted to be. I approach the season a little differently. It’s a series of one-game seasons. This week, this is our game, this is our season. Next week it’ll change. I just focus on the opponent and the task at hand throughout the week and the preparation that we need to have to do a good job and make good decisions on game day. I don’t really look at the total part until it’s over with as far as the season is concerned. Where we are right now is where we wanted to be. We wanted to be 4-0 at this point and that’s where we are.”
» Muschamp on throwing the ball this week: “You’ve got to be multiple against Alabama. You’re not going to be one-dimensional and have success. You have to stay balanced in what you do in both the run and pass and be effective and efficient in both areas.”
» Muschamp on Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron: “I think he’s been very efficient. He’s only had two interceptions so far this season. He’s taking the ball to the right spots.”
» Muschamp on Alabama RB Trent Richardson: “He’s an outstanding player and has got a low center of gravity, great balance, great vision. He’s a one-cut guy. When he sees the hole and gets it going north and south, he gets the ball downhill. You hardly do not see any negative run plays with him. He’s always moving the chains in a positive direction for their team. You got to gang tackle this guy. You’re not going to get him down single-handedly a lot of the time. We need to do a good job with eyes on the ball and leveraging the football the right well and tackle well and wrap and get him down which, at times in the secondary, we’ve been very average.
» Muschamp on the budding Florida-Alabama rivalry: “Both programs – the tradition speaks for itself as far as the championships and the tradition and the history of the two programs. I’m just looking forward to playing in the Florida-Alabama game Saturday night.”
ALABAMA HEAD COACH NICK SABAN
» Saban on going up against Florida: “This is the biggest challenge we’ve had all year which also makes it the greatest opportunity for our team in terms of playing a really good Florida team that has played extremely well in the first four games. Will has done a great job there from a discipline, execution and technique standpoint. Their guys are playing hard, and we’re certainly going to have to match that intensity on the road and get the kind of execution that we need and play smart so that we give ourselves a chance to play winning football. This is going to be a real test and a real challenge for us.”
» Saban on his first meeting with Muschamp: “Sometimes you just meet somebody and you really get a good feel for them. Will was a real good person, real genuine. You could tell he was hard-working and had a special intensity about him in terms of what he wanted to do. And a passion for football and how important it was to him. That first impression really held true in this case. It is pretty obvious based on the career he’s had and what he’s done so far as a head coach that all those things are correct.”
» Saban on how Gators redshirt senior QB John Brantley is playing this year: “I think he’s playing extremely well. I think he’s so far has taken what the defense gives and we certainly feel like he has the capacities to throw the ball down the field. A lot of what they’ve done to this point has been to utilize some of the playmakers that they have, which are two really, really good running backs who have great speed and explosive ability. They’ve gotten the ball to them a lot of different ways, and I think that’s probably good coaching on their part to take advantage of that. I do think they have capable receivers, good athletic tight ends, and John Brantley is certainly capable of throwing the ball down the field. There’s no lack of their respect for their ability to do that on our part.”
» Saban on how much change he sees from Florida this year: “I think [they are] significantly different. There’s not the zone read option-type basis for what they do. It’s more ‘pro-style’ in terms of they run a lot of sweeps and some direct runs with these guys. They do a good job upfront. The drop-back passing game is certainly a lot different in style in terms of what they’ve done in the past. To me there’s not many similarities.”