After last week’s 42-20 triumph over USF, the Florida Gators face a Goliath task Saturday as the Alabama Crimson Tide come to town. I reached out to Ashlee Woods, sports editor of The Crimson White, for this week’s edition of Know Your Enemy to get the rundown on the Tide.
Alabama has dominated its first two weeks. What has impressed you most about the Tide’s performance?
Woods: I have been really impressed by the defense (especially the linebackers) and the offensive line. The defense was highly criticized last season for giving up explosive plays, blown coverages and poor tackling. I have seen very little of those things so far. The linebackers have made Mercer and Miami’s run game non-existent. They have also not given up too many passing yards to RBs and TEs, which was a point of critique last year. The front seven for Alabama has found every hole in an offensive line. While they may not be sacking the QB a lot, they have forced King and Peevy off of their rhythm. This is in large part due to Pete Golding. In his third year, he has prepared his unit to play 60 minutes. His game plans have also improved as well
The offensive line lost a few key starters like Landon Dickerson and ALex Leatherwood. Fans and analysts questioned just how prepared the younger players would be going into the season. So far, they have done well. The line has only given up 3 sacks this season. Again, this line has not been tested yet, however, they have kept Bryce Young upright. They have also been effective in the rushing attack. Alabama is averaging 4.2 yards per carry. The OL has been creating holes and sealing gaps for their running backs to be successful.
Are there really any weaknesses in this team? If so, what are they and how might Florida exploit them?
Woods: The team’s biggest weakness is staying focused. Against Mercer, there were a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes from the Tide. The penalties on the offensive side of the ball have killed drives in the first two games. The players nor Saban are too pleased about it. If Alabama struggles to start strong like they did against Florida, it could be hard to shake it off. Florida must come out of the gate ready to play for 60 minutes.
What does Bryce Young bring to this offense and how do you expect him to perform in his first true road test of the season?
Woods: Young brings a lot of versatility and poise to this offense. He is primarily known for his mobility and arm strength, but I have been more impressed with his intelligence on the field. He has not forced a throw nor made any costly turnovers. He is taking what the defense gives him, which is a veteran move. He also has great command of the offense. In the biggest game of his career so far against Miami, he threw for four touchdowns. He also showed no signs of nervousness. He followed that up with a three touchdown performance.
I expect him to perform well. He has stated many times that he doesn’t feel an immense amount of pressure. From what I’ve seen, I think that is true. He understands that it is not solely on him to do his job. However, he also understands that he must lead. I expect him to continue to show poise in the pocket and focus on what he needs to do for the team and not the drama around the game.
What position group is most likely to be the difference maker for the Tide Saturday?
Woods: It will be the secondary. Richardson has been really good in the first two games at creating explosive plays. The secondary cannot allow that to happen. It’s on them to follow their coverages and not let Florida receivers get too much separation. They cannot afford to give up chunk plays. That allows Florida to pick up the pace and tire out the defense.
How can Alabama cover the absurd 15-point spread put out by Vegas?
Woods: In my opinion, I don’t think they will. While they covered the spread in both games so far, I actually think this contest will be a lot tighter. Both teams can score early and often. Both defenses have shut down their opposing offense.
Alabama, again, will need to keep the explosive plays to a minimum. They know this offense can score. They know Florida can pick apart defenses. If the big plays start to accumulate, this game is a lot closer.
Who is one player Florida fans should know, whether for their play or their story?
Woods: Fans should keep their eye on CB Kool-Aid McKinstry. He is an extremely talented freshman, who made his first start on Saturday. In Saturday’s game, he tied for second on the team in tackles (6), had one interception and broke up a pass. He is an aggressive player. He challenges receivers at the line and never lets up. He is also strong at tackling. He is a player I expect to see on the field often against Florida. He can be a big factor in this game.
Woods: There’s going to be some offense. I think both defenses will give up some plays, but Alabama is too talented for Florida to keep up
Contact Michael Hull at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Hull33.
Michael Hull is a third-year journalism major with a specialization in sports & media. He has a minor in business and leadership and is a struggling Jacksonville Jaguars fan.