Muschamp excited for two-back test

The Florida defense will see a new challenge this weekend. The Gators will face their first two-back offense of the year. There's no secret about Arkansas -- they want to run the football. It doesn't matter what the Gators do -- load the box or run blitz -- the Razorbacks are still going to run. That's the mindset first-year head coach Bret Bielema brought to Fayetteville.

"They're a very physical football team," Will Muschamp said.

That mindset continues on both sides of the football. The Razorbacks are second in the Southeastern Conference with 237 rushing yards per game, and they're fifth in the conference by allowing just 126.4 yards per game on the ground.

The rushing attack will be the toughest challenge the Gators have faced this season. Florida comes into Saturday allowing just 53.5 rushing yards per game, which is 50 yards fewer than second place Alabama. The Gators have dominated opposing ground games, but they haven't seen a two-back set like Arkansas will bring to Gainesville. The true fullback is a rarity in college football, but both teams will feature it on Saturday.

The Razorbacks will feed freshman Alex Collins and sophomore Jonathan Williams. Collins is second in the SEC with 119.4 yards per game while Williams is sixth with 94.2 yards per game.

"We have not seen a team like this as far as the two-back run game is concerned, the play-actions, very big up front, talented up front, two talented runners in Williams and Collins," Muschamp said.

Florida heavily recruited Collins last season before he decided to sign with the Razorbacks.

"He's a good football player," Muschamp said of Collins. "He's a guy we recruited, obviously. He's done an outstanding job averaging a 120 yards rushing a game. He's a very good football player. Both backs are outstanding, Williams and Alex."

Collins is a tough runner

Center Travis Swanson has 44 starts under his belt, and Muschamp called him "as good a center as" Florida will face this season. He's a good athlete that can pull and get outside to serve as the lead blocker.

With the run game leading the offense, they create one-on-one matchups with tight ends and wide receiver Dante Herndon. Quarterback Brandon Allen returned over the weekend and threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns against Texas A&M.

Defensive ends Chris Smith and Trey Flowers lead the Arkansas defense. Smith leads the conference with six sacks, and the Razorbacks entire defense leads the conference with 15 sacks.

"The two defensive ends are the guys that jump out at you," Muschamp said. "Two really good pass rushers. I think Smith is in the top-five in sacks in the country, a guy that has really good initial quickness and first step. They are physical and tough."

Muschamp was clear that his preparation doesn't change regardless of the opponent, but senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins knows these type of games are the ones he gets even more energetic about. Both teams will take the field on Saturday while trying to impose their will on the other.

"It's probably his top five favorite this year," Watkins said with a laugh. "He loves smash-mouth, physical football. Lining the ball up, spotting it and running it. I bet he's going to be pumped today at practice for this game."

INJURY REPORT: Running back Valdez Showers (ankle) will return to practice on Tuesday or Wednesday and is expected to play on Saturday. Tight end Colin Thompson (foot) will miss Saturday's game.

"Other than that, we should be good to go for the game," Muschamp said.

That includes cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee). The junior cornerback was a game-time decision at Kentucky and told the coaches he could play if they needed him. That wasn't the response Muschamp wanted to hear, so he told Roberson to ice the knee and make sure he was ready to face Arkansas.

"Marcus is a team guy, he'll do anything for the team," Muschamp said. "I just didn't feel comfortable putting him in that situation. He and I talked after he came off the field. I said, ‘Let's ice you down and get ready for next week.'"

CREATIVE WITH BULLARD: With the loss of defensive tackle Dominique Easley, the Gators will slide sophomore Jonathan Bullard inside to defensive tackle for more snaps this year. He saw more time there on Saturday, and Muschamp called it Bullard's best game of his college career.

The reps at defensive tackle should continue to increase over the next few games.

"Jon's a guy that we really trained in August camp to play inside just in case something happened," Muschamp said. "He's a big-bodied guy. He's got some fast-twitch for an inside player. He can give us a push inside, but he's going to play both end and tackle for us. He'll play both end and tackle. Obviously a little bit depends on our package that week and what we're trying to do."

Bullard gives the Gators a boost

The Gators continue to search for more help at defensive tackle. Leon Orr is the other starter but only played 18 snaps after being a game-time decision with a shoulder injury. He felt good during warm ups but Muschamp only wanted to use him in certain situations.

Darious Cummings and Damien Jacobs continue to improve and will be important pieces for the rest of the season.

"I thought Damien Jacobs held the point extremely well inside and played blocks well," Muschamp said. "I thought Darious Cummings, same thing. We need to get a little bit more out of them pushing the pocket in the middle in terms of rushing the passer."

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