Watching the Florida Gators defense under Will Muschamp, it’s apparent the apple doesn’t fall far from the Nick Saban coaching tree.
A front four that can get a rush without a blitz, followed by a linebacker core that swarms the ball carrier and a secondary that presses the receiver and takes balls out the air. It’s a style that Saban is known for and Muschamp has implemented in various coaching stops.
When Florida’s and Alabama’s respective squads take on the opposing offenses Saturday, fans will see where the mentor Saban’s had an impact on Muschamp.
The stats this season show the similarities of the defenses. While Alabama has played one more game than Florida, the Tide and Gators are ranked second and third in the SEC, respectively. Both teams are ranked top-15 in the nation, with Alabama at 10 and Florida at 15. The total yards per game allowed by the defenses are around 20 within of each other, with Alabama allowing 267 and Florida allowing 287.5. The teams also share a close margin of sacks (Florida: 5, Alabama: 7) and tackles for loss (Florida: 15, Alabama: 16).
The same day Florida shut out Eastern Michigan 65-0, Alabama shut out Florida Atlantic 41-0, adding even more to the mirrored identities the squads share.
The secondary of the two teams have also been questioned this season, after facing up-tempo offenses. Last week the Gators gave up 369 yards in the air and three touchdowns against Kentucky’s offense. Alabama faced communication breakdowns in the season opener against West Virginia. The Mountaineers’ high-speed offense amassed 365 passing yards and one touchdown.
Throughout the week Florida’s coaching staff discussed playing better in the slot as well as fixing the secondary’s eye discipline against the pass as the team prepares for preseason All-American Amari Cooper.
“We need to do a better job on the jump ball with Jalen [Tabor] in a couple of situations,” Muschamp said. “There was some contact there, we need to be more firm with the contact and not let the receiver push off on us, and be more firm at the top of the route. So there are some things that are all correctable things as you watch the tape.”
For Alabama, Saban feels the team working young players into the system led to the communication issues, but as the players continue to play the problems will be corrected.
“I think what we’ve done the past two games, both of which have been no-huddle teams, as well, we’ve communicated a lot better and had a lot more mental errors,” Saban said. “We need to build on that as the players get more experience.”
Saturday’s mirror defenses will provide the offenses with identical challenges. Looking at tape of their opponent, Gators wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood can see the influence Saban has had on Muschamp.
‘They play pretty similar,” he said. “They play press in boundary, they move around a lot, they’re very good on play side call. They’re pretty much our defense. I guess if they threw on different jerseys it wouldn’t make a difference.”