"He's exceptionally good against press, coming off the ball, but he's also very good coming out of a break," Saban said. "Most of the time the defender gets beat either on the release or out of the break. A lot of guys are pretty good at one and maybe not as good at the other. And he has really good hands and good ball skills."
1. Texas A&M They would be No. 14 on my SEC Groundskeeping Power Poll ballot.
2. Alabama Nick Saban's team has been very quiet, in part because they haven't really played anyone in the last couple of weeks. But that still makes me nervous if I'm Will Muschamp.
3. Auburn Their biggest test of the season to this point is Thursday, against the wily old wizard of the Big 12, Bill Snyder.
"Games like this, players really get excited," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "If they don’t, they don’t understand what playing Alabama football means and they don’t understand playing in the SEC. But I think we’ve got enough guys on our team that really understand that, so I don’t think that should be an issue." Tide right tackle Austin Shepherd, a fifth-year senior, is one of those guys. When asked if the preparation for this week would be any different, Shepherd said, "Yes and no."
"You always want to prepare for a game like it’s a Florida or an LSU or something, but going into SEC gets everyone excited," Shepherd said. "This is kind of what you live for. This is why you came to Alabama, to play teams like this. It's just more mental prep because you have to watch a lot of film because these guys have multiple things about them."
"I feel like we have strides to make," Shepherd said. "We haven't really been consistent with it. For example, the first half of last game wasn't really that consistent. It was hit or miss. I feel like we got better with it in the second half, but I'm hoping going into this game, we can have a consistent run game and build on it from here." Florida will be easily the toughest run defense Alabama has faced this season. Though Kentucky found some holes in the Gators' secondary, it didn't get much on the ground, as it rushed 33 times for 81 yards.
And, hell, if you want to take the truly pessimistic view, it's that an unprepared Florida team was shown up by a far lesser Kentucky team, had to be gifted a win, and has no clear way forward to improvement. Here's a list of questions that I can ask if I'm being really skeptical, just off the top of my head: Is Driskel going to suddenly get much, much better at reading the field? What happens when teams can lock up Demarcus Robinson and force other receivers to beat them? How bad is Florida's secondary if an unheralded true freshman who wasn't even listed on Kentucky's roster — Garrett Johnson — could burn it repeatedly? Will Florida's defensive line look as stout against the run against an offensive line like Alabama's?
Don't those field goal misses by Frankie Velez and Austin Hardin mean that Florida's got to go for it more often, and doesn't the recent inefficiency on third and fourth downs mean that's a bad thing? What happens when Florida isn't forcing four turnovers per game? How will Florida flip the field if Kyle Christy reverts to 2013 form, or Andre Debose gets hurt? Will Florida's receivers ever solve their problems with drops? How much does Florida already miss Jake McGee and D.J. Humphries?
Left tackle D.J. Humphries is expected to miss his second straight game with an ankle injury. A junior, Humphries was a preseason All-SEC third-team selection after starting six games in an injury-shortened 2013. Humphries was the only injured player Florida coach Will Muschamp mentioned at his Monday press conference. Without Humphries against the Wildcats, Florida shifted right tackle Chaz Green, a preseason All-SEC second-team selection, to the left and played redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson at right tackle.
After a slew of decent gains and calculated risks, the underdog moves past midfield and into scoring range before kicking a field goal. The underdog is beating Alabama, and already people are panicking. "THIS SECONDARY IS GARBAGE," a woman ten rows up yells, while the Florida fan claps along. There are less than four minutes gone in the first quarter and somebody has already cursed Nick Saban. The underdog smiles. His team is beating Alabama.