Durkin confident before heading to Alabama

With future high draft picks all over the field, the Florida defense is in for its biggest challenge of the year this weekend. The Alabama offense prides itself on being a pro-style unit, but they can still use a quick tempo between snaps at times.

The Gators saw that the entire game last week against Kentucky. The Wildcats sprinted to the ball without a huddle, looked to the sideline for a signal and ran the next play. Florida won’t see that kind of tempo in Tuscaloosa this weekend, but Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said that the game film of Alabama shows more no-huddle offense than most would expect.

“They are tempo at times,” Durkin said. “It’s not what they do all the time, but they’ll mix it in and do it. We’re always ready for it. (When a team doesn’t use tempo) there is more time, you can catch your breath a little bit, take a deep breath between plays. At the end of the day, it comes down whatever we line up, who’s executing and playing the most physical.”

Florida expects to see Blake Sims under center when Saturday’s game gets underway at 3:30 p.m., but they could still see Jacob Coker take over the offense at times throughout the game. The Gators are preparing for both quarterbacks on Saturday, knowing that both could get reps. Durkin said they have different calls the defense likes against both Coker and Sims.

Sims is the better athlete of the two and can tuck the ball and run. He’s third on the team with 102 yards rushing, adding two touchdowns on the ground to go with his 646 passing yards and four touchdowns to one interception.

“He’s very dangerous on his feet,” Durkin said. “There are some design runs to him, but I think sometimes when it’s not designed plays, they do a good job of moving the pocket with him. I think he throws it well and delivers the ball well for them, too.

“He’s a dangerous guy and we’ve got to be really conscious of where he’s at and containing him and keeping him in front of us because he can beat you either way, throwing it or running it.”

The running backs present a different challenge. T.J. Yeldon leads the team with 39 carries and 225 yards on the ground, but the bruising Derrick Henry isn’t far behind. The sophomore from Florida has 33 rushes for 209 yards and one touchdown.

It doesn’t matter which running back is in the backfield on Saturday, the Gators know they have to tackle well. Durkin mentioned that his defense spent all of fall camp tackling a big back like Matt Jones, so they know the importance of wrapping up the ball carrier and finishing the tackle.

“It’s a different challenge this week,” Durkin said. “I think these guys are far more committed to the run than the teams we’ve faced thus far. They’ve got some very good, talented guys carrying the ball. They do a great job of getting off blocks, tackle well, gang tackling and getting to the ball. They’re good enough to make guys miss and break tackles. We need more guys to get in there.”

The Gators will also face an animated, loud atmosphere in Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. It’s the first big home game for the Crimson Tide that can fill their stadium to a capacity crowd of 101,821. The energy of the pregame atmosphere can be intimidating, especially for a Florida team traveling many young players. All but nine of the players will be making their first trip to Tuscaloosa.

Durkin thinks road trips are actually easier on the Florida defense than the offense.

“Our guys play in front of a pretty good crowd here every week,” Durkin said. “When you get involved in a game I don’t think that really affects you. In some ways being on the road as a defense, it’s a little easier to communicate. It’s louder (in Gainesville) when we’re on defense then when you’re on the road. Most fans are keeping it quiet for their offense, so I think we can communicate a little better.”

That's good news for a Florida secondary that struggled to communicate against Kentucky.

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