GAINESVILLE -- For good reason, Florida's defensive line is receiving most of the attention this week as the Gators prepare for No.1 Alabama. Alabama's backfield combination of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson might be the best in the Southeastern Conference and on Tuesday UF defensive end Duke Lemmens referred to Richardson and Ingram as the best rushing duo in the history of college football.
While the editorial board of this blog respectfully disagrees with that assessment -- Richardson and Ingram might not even be the best backfield combo in the history of college football in their state, considering Auburn featured Ronnie Brown, Carnell Williams and Brandon Jacobs at one point during their college careers -- we will concede that Ingram and Richardson are pretty good. Clearly, one of Florida's keys to beating Alabama on Saturday will be limiting Ingram and Richardson.
That brings us to the point of this blog topic: Limiting Ingram and Richardson will only be half the battle on Saturday for the seventh-ranked Gators. OK, maybe four-sixths of the battle, but who's counting? The point is, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy played arguably the best game of his career in last season's Southeastern Conference championship game against a UF secondary many considered one of the best in the nation. McElroy finished with 239 yards and a touchdown on 12 of 18 passing attempts.
While former cornerback Joe Haden limited Alabama receiver Julio Jones to two receptions for 28 yards, Alabama receiver Marquis Maze played well against Janoris Jenkins. Maze had five receptions for 96 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown catch against Jenkins in one-on-one coverage.
Florida's cornerbacks and safeties will be tested again Saturday. Jenkins will likely shadow Jones, which leaves Jeremy Brown with the task of containing Maze.
"[Maze] is a dangerous guy, real fast in and out of breaks," Brown said. "Definitely a headache for defensive coordinators. He's special."
Alabama receiver Darius Hanks is also a threat, and could pose a potential mismatch against a young cornerback like UF's Cody Riggs. A junior from Norcross, Ga., Hanks is second on the team through four games with 11 receptions and touchdown for 197. What's more, Alabama's tight end, Preston Dial (6-3, 237 pounds) is a gifted athlete. He has eight receptions and two touchdowns for 94 yards this season. Don't forget that former Alabama tight end Colin Peek had three important receptions for 39 yards against Florida in 2009, including a touchdown to give Alabama a 26-13 lead with 9:53 left in the third quarter.
If UF loads the defensive box to stop Alabama's running game, UF's secondary will have to play mistake free (sound tackling will be key) against an experienced quarterback with plenty of options in one-on-one coverage situations. A breakdown in coverage like the one between UF safety Will Hill and Jenkins against Kentucky that led to an easy touchdown could be the difference in a game that will likely be close entering the fourth quarter.
What exactly happened on that blown coverage against Kentucky?
"It was nothing," Hill said. "Everyone has their outtakes on what happened but it was just one person seeing one thing and another person seeing another. It was just a miscommunication."
What has Hill and Jenkins done to work on the miscommunication?
"Just work on the coverage," Hill said.
Hill said that working on his "back-pedals, breaks and my vision, staying key on the quarterback," will be important this week.