Strong Concerned about Sooners' Tempo

Not too many coaches find themselves confronted with the task of controlling an offense that's posted 60 points in five straight games. That's the challenge Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is preparing for, as Oklahoma hopes to ride their high powered attack to the BCS title.

This year's BCS Championship Game has the two defensive coordinators who've won national titles at Florida coaching against each other, but Oklahoma head man Bob Stoops has built this year's team around their offense. While the Sooners are led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Sam Bradford, it's their overall scheme more than any one specific player which concerns Strong.

"Our major concern right now is just the tempo. We're going to have to tackle well - they're an outstanding football team," Charlie Strong said.

Oklahoma tries to force their opponents into making mistakes by using a hurry up offense, something Strong feels has been a challenge for Florida to simulate in practice. He says Oklahoma is averaging roughly two dozen more offensive plays per game than the Gators typically play on defense, which puts pressure on them to always do things correctly.

"We've been trying to practice at a fast tempo and get guys lined up on the football," Strong said. "We know we play good defense, but we have to get lined up and tackle well."

Florida's experience at the BCS title game two years ago is helping them with their preparations for this year's version. Strong says they approach the month leading up to the game as a three phase event, with Saturday beginning the final phase and being considered the Monday of a typical game week.

With no senior starters, Florida's defense is remarkably young for a group that's playing for a national championship. Strong's defense has come a long way from this time a year ago, and his players say it's his off field presence just as much as his "x and o" knowledge that explains why.

"Coach Strong is a coach that all the players love," linebacker Ryan Stamper said. "He doesn't only put us in position to make plays, but you can talk to him."

Safety Major Wright agrees with Stamper.

"When you're down, he can say a joke that will bring your whole day up," he said. "He's a coach that's always there for you in all situations."

While Oklahoma will be the stiffest test the Gators have faced this season, Strong is confident he's got a unit that can do the job.

"This whole defense, I don't know if these guys realize how good they are, but we do have a good defense."


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