Hanks Gets Ready For The Fast Bunch

Almost every analysis of Florida as Alabama's game at Gainesville nears focuses on the speed of the Gators' running backs, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.

"Hello?" says Alabama senior wide receiver Darius Hanks. "Has anyone noticed the speed on the Florida defense?" Well, he didn't say it like that, but Hanks made it clear that he's aware of "a fast bunch of guys."

Alabama, ranked second in the nation, takes on 12th ranked Florida at 7 p.m. CDT (8 p.m. eastern time) Saturday. CBS will televise the game. Both teams are 4-0.

Hanks, a 6-0, 185-pound fifth year senior from Norcross, Ga., is a third-year starter for the Tide. He missed the first two games of this season, sitting out because he had played briefly in one game in 2007. He has started the past two games.

Hanks has only four receptions for 33 yards this year, but in his career has 60 receptions for a 14.0 yards per catch average and six touchdowns.

Hanks has been studying the Gators' defense.

"They get to the ball really fast," Hanks said. "They can pick the ball off. They have a bunch of fast guys. They aren't the biggest guys and not the most physical, but they are a bunch of fast guys who get to the ball pretty quick."

Hanks has a philosophy for every game.

"This is no different than any other week," he said. "I look at all DBs the same. I respect all of them, but still think I can beat them."

One thing the Alabama offense has not done this year is have an effective vertical passing game, completions down field that stretch the defense. Might the aggressive defense of the Gators provide some opportunities?

Hanks thinks that is possible. "We're trying to make vertical opportunities," he said. "We're going to take whatever is given to us."

The problem to date, he said, is "just timing. The quarterback has to have enough time in the pocket to get rid of the ball, and that's our main issue right now."

That quarterback is sophomore A.J. McCarron, a first-year starter. "He's been doing an excellent job," Hanks said. "He's a young guy, and I feel each week he has been progressing out there on the field. He's still has a lot more years ahead of him, and for this to be his first year starting I'm amazed at the job he has done.

"A.J. has a very big arm out there. You guys haven't seen anything yet."

It is natural that comparisons are made to Bama's last first-year starting quarterback. In 2009 Greg McElroy took over as quarterback and led the Crimson Tide to an undefeated season and national championship.

Hanks said, "They are both great leaders. Greg got in the huddle and it was like, ‘Everybody listen up.' A.J. is young and we're kind of teaching him and molding him into the kind of guy he needs to be out there."

Hanks doesn't expect a rowdy Gainesville night crowd to affect the Alabama offense.

"We played well at Penn State in all the noise, so if we played well there, we'll be able to play well anywhere," Hanks said. "To be honest, I love playing in an atmosphere like this. That's why you come to Alabama, to play in big games like this. Big time players make big plays in big games."

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