Linebackers Face Tough Challenge Against Bama

It didn't take linebackers coach D.J. Durkin much time to convince his players of their challenge Saturday. Even though the Florida linebacker corps lost a lot from the team that Alabama ran through last season, this young group knows what is on the line. They must stop two of the most talented running backs in college football.

"You show them the film of those guys, and they understand and realize all the things we say about tackling," Durkin said. "Obviously, we've got a challenge that's bigger than most with those two backs."

Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram was held out for the first two games of the season because of a knee injury, but he didn't waste time proving he was back. Ingram ran for 151 yards on nine carries against Duke in his first game back. He punctuated that with 158 yards on 23 attempts in the SEC opener against Arkansas last weekend.

It doesn't stop there in the Crimson Tide backfield.

When Ingram was out, Trent Richardson carried the load. He carried the ball 32 times for 215 yards and three touchdowns in the first two games of the season. Whispers surfaced that he could actually be the more talented back than the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

"To have two of those guys on the same team at the same position is really rare," Durkin said.

The Florida defensive line will get a boost as senior tackles Brandon Antwine and Lawrence Marsh will return. It should help boost the five-man defensive line the Gators used to hold Tennessee's power run game to only 29 yards rushing.

"We're going to utilize all the guys we can up front," Durkin said. "Playing a team like this, you've got to stop the run. That's a huge part of their offense."

The defense also pushed Duke Lemmens out to the SAM linebacker position, where he has spent time working with Durkin this week. After playing the position for the first time in a game at Tennessee, Lemmens was named the defensive player of the game.

It didn't take him long to get comfortable at the position, but that didn't surprise the Florida coaches.

"Duke is one of those guys who is a football player," Durkin said. "We could put him in anywhere and he'd end up around the ball somehow and doing a good job. That's just the kind of guy he is."

Durkin took the job as Florida's linebackers coach, along with the responsibility of coaching special teams.

The unit saw a lapse against Kentucky when a fake field goal allowed the Wildcats to get into the end zone. They broke the huddle, and as one player pretended to run off the field, he jogged down the sideline and came set. He was wide open in the end zone for an easy touchdown.

"We were late getting our own substitution on the field, so we weren't paying attention to their substitution," Durkin said. "That's on the coaches on the sideline and in the box. It's something we normally watch, but we were more worried about us having 11 guys on the field."

Kicker Caleb Sturgis has been somewhat shaky so far, but Durkin says there is full confidence in him heading into this game. Durkin emphasized the importance of the kicking game in a highly competitive environment, even saying the kicking game "has to be an aspect that we win."

Sturgis' back is completely healthy and ready for Saturday's game.

"He's had a couple of things that have bothered him throughout (the year), but that's a guy who has kicked plenty around here and kicked in big games before," Durkin said.
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