Saban Discusses Florida Challenge

Two areas of Florida football impress Alabama Coach Nick Saban. One is his former assistant, Will Muschamp, who is the new head coach of the Gators. The other is more tangible: Florida speed, and specifically the speed of the running backs.

Alabama, ranked second in the nation, goes to Florida, ranked 12th in the nation, in a battle of unbeaten Southeastern Conference teams this weekend. Kickoff Saturday in Gainesville will be at 7 p.m. CDT (8 eastern) with national television coverage by CBS.

While Bama feels it has two of the finest tailbacks in the nation in Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, the Gators almost certainly have two of the fastest runners in Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said "the biggest thing [the Gators] have is some outstanding speed, especially on ofense. Rainey and Demps have made a ton of big plays, whether it is catching a short pass and turning it into a long run or running a lot of sweeps and running plays that they've broken."

Saban also noted that Florida quarterback John Brantley is playing effectively. "I think he has done really well," Saban said. "He has managed the games well. He hasn't turned the ball over a lot. I think he sort of takes what the defense gives him and hasn't forced a lot of throws. I think he has been very, very effective. That have, statistically, the best offense in the league."

Although Florida wide receivers don't have a lot of catches this season, Saban said they are good receivers.

"They've got good team speed, play wel on special teams, and their defense is probably the best we've played against," Saban said.

Discussion of Florida, though, usually comes back to offense, particularly since the Gators hired former NFL offensive coordinator and Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weiss to run the attack.

"I think this is a little bit more of a pro-style offense, but their strength as a team has been their ability to run the ball and consistently make big plays running the ball," Saban said. "They are a great screen team. They have a very good passing game. They haven't thrown the ball down the field a whole bunch, but when they have, they've been pretty effective doing it.

"They're not the typical zone offense sort of spread -- Mississippi State, old Florida. It's not that. They do a great job of featuring the talent, which I thought Florida's old offense did as well."

He pointed out that Rainey and Demps are running backs-receivers, which makes it difficult to match up against them.

He added, "This will be a real challenging game for us in all phases, but we want to focus on controlling the things that we control and what we do. I want our players to focus on what they need to do to play well. [Florida has] great players, we have great players. Everybody needs to focus on what they need to do to play well."

Saban said, "This is a challenge for our team, a great opportunity for our team to play probably one of the best teams in our league." He also noted the difficulty of playing in The Swamp.

The Tide coach also noted that his former assistant at LSU and the Miami Dolphins, Will Muschamp, "is doing a really, really good job. He did a great job for us for a long time. He's been a really, really good coach and done a good job everywhere he has coached."

Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley, who was injured in Alabama's 38-14 win over Arkansas last Saturday, is out for a few days and "questionable" for the Florida game. Although tailback Eddie Lacy was limited Monday, he is expected to be ready to play against the Gators.

Bama senior linebacker Chris Jordan has not played this year and has been held out of recent practices. "He is making some progress and we are hopeful that he will be able to do some things today," Saban said before Monday's practice. "We shut him down for a week. He came back and still struggled a little bit, so we decided on Wednesday of last week to shut him down and not do anything until today. We will see how he responds today. I know that he is frustrated because he really wants to contribute."

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