One-on-One with Charlie Strong – Part Two

As most of you know I do a lot of work for Sun Sports TV/Fox Sports Florida. In that role I sometimes get access to Gator players and coaches that others do not. Normally that access is for special programs on those networks and cannot be shared with other audiences.

However Sun Sports TV and Fox Sports Florida have graciously allowed me to share with you the interviews I did for their Florida Gator Bowl Special program. The show will continue to air on the networks and I hope everyone will try to find a time that they can watch and enjoy it.

With that we offer up the second part of my one-on-one interview with Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong in which he talks about defending Oklahoma. Keep in mind this conversation took place before Oklahoma announced that running back DeMarco Murray (1,002, 14 TD) would miss the game. However Oklahoma still has Chris Brown (1,110, 20 TD) and Mossis Madu (463, 6 TD).

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LV: Oklahoma has scored over 700 points this season. Having coached as long as you have, how remarkable is that?

CS: It is very remarkable and a very good challenge for our defense. If you look at them over the last five games they've scored 60 points every time and the game before that it was 58. It is a very good offense. It's a fast-paced offense, an up tempo offense. They make a lot of big plays. It's really going to be critical for us to find a way to slow them down.

LV: Is their tempo and going no huddle all the time one of the most difficult things to prepare for and adjust to?

CS: Oh it is and the thing we have to do is get lined up. They got up on the ball and run a lot of plays. We're used to playing 60-65 plays on defense, but they run 80-90 plays a game on offense. That's 20-30 more plays that we're used to and we have to be ready.

LV: You faced Matthew Stafford who everyone says will be a number one draft pick. Sam Bradford is going to be a number one pick whenever he comes out. What makes Bradford an exceptional player?

CS: Well he doesn't make mistakes. He gets the ball out quickly and as a result he hasn't been sacked many times. He is a really good quarterback who has excellent field vision and does a great job throwing the deep ball also.

LV: I want to talk about one of his key weapons, Jermaine Gresham who has caught 58 passes, 12 for touchdowns. You haven't faced a tight end this season that is as dangerous as this guy.

CS: No we really haven't. Thinking back, Georgia had a guy (Ben Watson) a couple of years ago who was sorta similar to Gresham. He has tremendous size (6-6/260) and great ball skills. He also has good speed. I would compare him to Cornelius Ingram.

LV: What is the biggest problem he presents?

CS: The one problem is a match up problem. If you want to play man to man you have to match him up with someone. Who is going to cover him for us? We have not decided that yet. But it's a big match up problem for us because he does a great job running routes.

LV: Of course as you have told me for years it all starts with stopping the run. Oklahoma for all of its passing numbers also runs for more than 200 yards a game. How much of a challenge is that part of it.

CS: Well, you're right. They key for us has to be stopping the run because if they can run the football with the way they throw it they'll have us completely off balance. We have to make them one dimensional and we'd rather have them throw the ball than run it.

LV: How good are their backs?

CS: Their backs are really good. Murray is an excellent downhill runner. The thing about all of their backs is that they have great speed and they can take the ball the distance.

LV: Up front are they in the same category as that Alabama line you just faced?

CS: I would say that Alabama was just powerful. They were very physical. With this team they're big and do a great job protecting the quarterback. They're different from Alabama in that Alabama was a physical football team. I'm not saying these guys are not physical, but they throw the ball a lot more than Alabama does.

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There's no question this is a tremendous offensive football team and a great challenge for the Gator defense. Oklahoma has so many weapons – shoot we never got to discuss Juaquin Iglesias (69, 1,092, 10 TD) and the other receivers that Bradford has at his disposal. I think a realistic goal for this game might be 30. If the Gators can hold Oklahoma to 30 they should be hoisting the trophy at the end of the night.


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