Quinn Has Respect for Saban

Dan Quinn worked for Alabama head coach Nick Saban while the two were at the Miami Dolphins. Florida's defensive coordinator had a good two year run and learned a lot from Saban in those two years developing a respect of the man along the way. The two meet up Saturday night in The Swamp when the Gators take on the Crimson Tide. Quinn looks forward to matching wits with the veteran coach.

Dan Quinn spent 12 years coaching in the NFL and one of his stops was with the Miami Dolphins in 2005 and 2006. That is where he met his current boss in Will Muschamp and also where he was tutored under the Dolphins head coach at the time, Nick Saban.

The two crossing paths is nothing new to Quinn who saw it happen a lot in the NFL. But other than some time spent together in the same film room and same football fields, things change and that is the case in this instance.

"In the coaching profession it happens," Quinn said Wednesday evening. "With him there is familiarity as the head coach and with some of the assistants. It isn't too uncommon in the NFL. Once the game starts it is about the game."

Saban is known as a control freak and Quinn somewhat backs that up.

"He was hands on with the whole program," Quinn said. "I learned a great deal from him. He was hands on from the way we selected personnel, the way we installed the defense in practice. He was certainly involved in offense too. We had a lot of meetings together with the offensive and defensive staff. We watched film together as an offense and defense together. He was certainly involved from every part of the organization."

There is little doubt in Quinn's mind that Saban knows the game of football.

"I would say he is one of the brightest football minds that I have been around," Florida's defensive leader said. "It sounds simple, but he gets football… an adjustment, an offensive play, a defensive play, he's been around it and is a really bright guy."

In the profession, there is a common theme among coaches about Saban that he is a hard man to work for and that he works his assistants harder than anyone. Quinn didn't hint at that notion at all when asked if he liked working with the current Alabama head coach.

"I learned a great deal from him," Quinn said. "At the time we had a great defensive line. One of our players was defensive player of the year, so I really enjoyed my time there quite a bit.

This week, Quinn and his boys will face their toughest test of the season. Four games in, the gators haven't faced a ranked team. Now they will line up against the second ranked team in the country and one with exceptional athletes all over the field.

The Gators really haven't faced any adversity yet this season getting out to commanding leads and holding on to them to finish off games. Quinn says they practice situational about adversity and how to get out of it and that is what they have to go one right now.

"I think it is something that you talk about as a team and you try to put them in those situations even in training camp," Quinn said. "When you are going against the offense, I think as coaches you have to pull form those experiences where they had to go against the offense. Sometimes you have to create as coaches and we have certainly done that."

A lot has been made about a team that seems closer to each other than a year ago. Florida was a team somewhat divided by the upper and lower classmen on the team. Quinn says the camaraderie of the team is important between players, coaches, and players with coaches.

"I believe that you win in the locker room first," Quinn said. "I believe that with every team and each team is different. It's important that each team is connected. To be honest it was about us getting to know the guys too. Not only do the players have to have a connection, but there has to be one from coaches to coaches and players to coaches as well. It is certainly a part of the building process. Each year is a different because the players and coaches change and I think it is important every year that you have that connection."

With the general spirit of the team on the incline and relationships better than they have been in over a year, this young team has been trying to work with each other and understand how to work together on the field.

Quinn believes the first four games have been a learning experience and a chance to learn how to really start to understand each other on the field to a point where all the parts work as a whole.

"I think the communication is getting better," he said of his defense. "It is something that we are constantly working on, but now that they have had a few more games together we are seeing that familiarity whether it is a look or a hand signal. We needed that experience early in the season. We had some young players playing and they needed to play."

Quinn was asked about a couple of players that this defense has leaned on so far this year. One up front is a junior with a lot of experience but hasn't started. Still, Omar Hunter has played well and especially in the game against Kentucky last weekend.

"He got the extra effort award for us in terms of style and the way he played," Quinn said of Hunter from the Kentucky game. "He is really valuable to our defensive line, he plays defensive tackle, plays nose tackle, he can play in the nickel package. He is a guy that we count on a lot. He's a tough guy and competes and brings a lot to our defense."

Sophomore safety Matt Elam has two interceptions in the last two games. But, more than those two big plays, Quinn thinks Elam is really starting to earn his stripes as a leader in the secondary.

"I would say the big thing for him would be communication," Quinn said of Elam. "You see him develop into one that sees it back there and is the quarterback of our defense on the back end. There were two or three times in the Kentucky game where it showed up and you could see he took the next step as a player."

Quinn made it a point to say that it was noticeable on Elam's part that he could see things shaping up on the field, he could relay that to his teammates, and then he watched it happen exactly as he saw it would. In Quinn's terms, "See it, say it, and recognize it."

"That was cool. Although he is a young player we are really counting on him in the back end."

Elam has also been counted on to provide run support for the nation's fifth ranked rush defense. Quinn knows he has a good safety for that.

"I think he is really strong and plays with good leverage in the run game and can take on blocks," Quinn said. "He comes down and plays in the core. He has strength, does a good job taking on blocks, he's strong, and a physical guy."

Against Kentucky the Gators had a tough time early on handling screens from the Wildcats. Kentucky got a large portion of their offensive yardage from early screen passes in the contest. That changed when Florida settled down and made some adjustments in what they were doing and more so, got everyone on the same page.

"In any adjustment, when you have a chance to go through whether it is a screen or a run, or a certain coverage…when you can get the guys together, go through it, and then make an adjustment, go through it, and then go out and execute it, I think that's good," Quinn said. "We weren't expecting Kentucky to play as much nickel as they did, but that is how the game unfolded and that is how we played it. I think it was good to see those guys adjust and go play."

The Gators will certainly have to guard against the screen pass this week with Alabama. The offensive weapons are a lot better this weekend and can make you pay dearly for not covering your bases.

However, the goal every week for this defense is to come out and stop the run. With Alabama, who ranks 19th nationally in rushing and has one of the premiere running backs in all of college in Trent Richardson. It is easy to see where their focus must be.

"I think when you prepare you have to take care of the whole thing," Quinn said of the match up. "He is a talented back and they have others, but it's more about us and our style. We really are about our technique, how we play, and the style we want to play. There is a fine balance between preparing for an opponent and taking care of your style and making sure your technique is good and making sure you are playing the style you want to play too. I think that's important to us and our team.

"Each team has certain guys that you know you want to take care of that guy and play well against that one. I think you are more aware of who a player is or a style or pass, or run, or a technique. But, we really try and focus on our technique and the way we play."

The Gators are a defense built first to stop the run and according to Quinn, they look forward to lining up and smashing heads on Saturday.

"In every game there will be both where you want to play some hard ball and run fronts and at times you wouldn't want to do that the entire game in any game," he said. "We have some guys that like to play the run too and are looking forward to the challenge they bring.

There is a four point spread in the game at the time of this writing. It is expected to be a really close game of two hard hitting and run stuffing defenses against two talented running offenses. Turnovers can and will likely play a big part in this game and Quinn said taking the ball away is always something they harp on.

"It's really important for us and the core of where we start," he said. "Getting after the ball is something we believe in really strongly. We stress it high and each game we play we make it an emphasis."

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