Strong Prepares Defense for Physical Game

Physical seems to be the word of the week when talking about the matchup between the University of Florida and the University of Alabama on the football field. Alabama is probably the most physical team the Gators have faced all year, especially on the offensive side. Florida is going to have to be stout up front and Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong understands that.

There is no doubt that Alabama comes in with the best offensive line Florida has seen in 2008. Left tackle Andre Smith is a sure fire early first round pick and center Antoine Caldwell is not far behind Smith. Their hands are full, but Charlie Strong says his defense understands the task at hand.

"We're just going to have to play hard," Strong said following Wednesdays practice. "We know this is going to be a physical game. Our guys understand it. Their offensive line is better than LSU's offensive line and we understand that.

"Smith is a really good football player and it's so hard to compare to what we've seen this year because they are such a physical team. Not only him, but the center Caldwell is a physical player. They have a great offensive line."

Alabama doesn't try to really fool anyone, they line up and run or throw right at you. They try and out muscle you across the board on the other side of the ball.

"When you look at Alabama, you know what you are going to get," strong said. "There are so many plays and formations, but you know what you are going to get.

"They are very multiple in the way they move guys around, someone is moving every snap. The thing they do very good is they come off the football. They are ball control, don't turn the football over, don't have many penalties. There aren't many third and longs, but a ton of third and shorts. They stay on schedule. If they go to second and ten, they try to get five yards to get it back to third and five or third and four. It's ball control and the quarterback does a great job of directing it."

They also play physical at the receiver position, led by true freshman Julio Jones. Jones is the Tide's leading receiver and uses his 6-4, 210 pound frame to make life miserable for smaller secondary people. Jones will get matched up with sophomore Joe Haden or freshman Janoris Jenkins, both who have had good years for the Gators, especially Jenkins.

"We have Janoris Jenkins and Joe Haden, they are going to have to cover him," Strong said of the tall task covering Jones. "The thing Janoris does is he understands the game and everything a coach says to him he takes it in and listens. You watch him and he hasn't gotten beat yet, knock on wood. He just continues to get better. Joe played and we have had a number of freshmen play, but not the way he is playing right now."

There have been a few injuries along the interior of defensive line this fall that have caused a little bit of anxiety in terms of number of bodies available. Right now both starters are healthy and sophomores Terron Sanders and Lawrence Marsh have played well. Behind them are two relatively experienced players that have not gotten much playing time this season for one reason or another. Sophomore Torrey Davis had discipline problems and sat out six different games already this season and freshman Jaye Howard didn't play early, but has seen a great bit of playing time in the last few games.

Strong is okay with the group he has ready but cautions against further injuries. He doesn't plan to change the play calling due to the current availability of defensive interior linemen.

"We have what we have and defensively we've gotten to the point where we are right now," Strong said. "We will continue to call the defense and let the guys go play."

If an injury does occur, strong side ends Carlos Dunlap or Justin Trattou, both sophomores, could move inside and cover a bit.

"It depends how the game goes and you hope no one gets hurt," Strong said of the possibility of seeing Dunlap or Trattou inside during the game. "If someone gets hurt, we would have to move Dunlap or Trattou or whoever, we will just have to get a guy inside."

Strong was asked how Dunlap might fare in there not having played much of an inside position before.

"He could be (good)," Strong said. "He hasn't had much work there, but whether you play a three technique or a five technique it's a matter of getting off of blocks."

This time of year there is always a distraction of coaching searches around the country. The success of the Florida program led to two defections last year for coaches taking promotions of pay or status at other programs. The Gators' success again this year has a lot of assistants really getting noticed and named for vacant coaching spots.

Charlie Strong has been one that has been mentioned for several years for several head coaching vacancies. Strong will treat this season like all the others and knows he has one job right now, and the other stuff will have to wait.

"I've said it before and the thing I can't do is let any time a job comes open and my name is called out...I have a job here and my job is to get this defense to play better every week," Strong said. "My job is Saturday and to find a way to stop Alabama."


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