Gators’ new head coach not new to Tide

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Margo Smith

Johnathan Atchison and Anthony Orr run through drills during practice Tuesday afternoon. / CW | Margo Smith

Laura Owens

Little did Alabama know when they played Texas two years ago in the national championship that they would be facing the then-Longhorns defensive coordinator in 2011 as the new Florida head coach.

“I have a lot of respect for [Will Muschamp],” center William Vlachos said. “I think he’s a great coach. Seeing him jumping around at the national championship two years ago, just the passion that he brings on the sidelines is pretty awesome. Great defensive mind; I know he learned a lot from Coach [Nick] Saban, and he’s doing a great job so far at Florida.”

Wide receiver Darius Hanks was on the Alabama team that lost to Florida in the SEC Championship game in 2008. Hanks said the team doesn’t talk about that much.

“It is brought up by Coach Saban,” Hanks said. “We’ve got to treat this game like any other one. This is our biggest game of the year so far, and we’ve got to go out there and dominate.”

 

The Swamp

Throughout the SEC, the Gators’ home stadium, known as “The Swamp,” is one of the toughest stadiums for visiting teams. Additionally, this weekend’s faceoff is a night game, making the environment that much tougher.

Having played at Penn State already this season, Hanks said he thinks the offense can battle the fans’ noise.

“I feel like we’re good,” he said. “We played well at Penn State, against all the noise. So if we played well there, we’ll be able to play well anywhere.”

 

Florida’s strengths

Though this Florida defense isn’t particularly big, Hanks said they’re very fast. So far this season, the Gator defense has gotten four interceptions.

“It’s no different than any other week,” Hanks said. “I look at all [defensive backs] the same. I respect all of them, but I still feel like I can beat them.”

On the offensive side, Florida quarterback John Brantley has a 64 percent completion rate with 752 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. The Gators’ leading runners are Chris Rainey, who has 411 yards with two touchdowns, and Jeff Demps, with 320 yards and four touchdowns.

“It’s going to be a big change [from Arkansas] because the speed on the field is going to be a little faster, with Demps and Rainey being pretty fast,” defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick said. “We’ve just got to adjust to it and go out there and execute on all cylinders on the field.”

  

Finish in the fourth

After last year’s loss to Auburn, the team has been focused on finishing in the fourth quarter this season.

“That’s been our main focus going into the season: finishing,” Hanks said. “This year, we’re trying to win every fourth quarter. We just go out there and do it. We can always talk about it, but we’ve got to be about it at the same time.”