FLORIDA FOOTBALL

Hogs' tough style mirrors Gators


Running back Alex Collins, right, and Arkansas' tough ground attack concerns Will Muschamp and the Gators. (The Associated Press)

Published: Friday, October 4, 2013 at 7:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 4, 2013 at 8:54 p.m.

Because there are so many differences in SEC and Big Ten football, many assumed that making this move from Wisconsin to Arkansas would force Bret Bielema to change, make him alter his coaching style and philosophy to fit the different landscape.

Facts

Arkansas (3-2, 0-1 SEC) at No. 18 Florida (3-1, 2-0), 7 p.m.

TV: ESPN2
RADIO: AM-850, 103.7 FM

But if the SEC has changed Bielema, it certainly is not evident when you look at his team. The Razorbacks resemble one of his Wisconsin teams — big, tough and physical, a downhill running team that likes to control the line of scrimmage and keep defenses off balance with a play-action passing attack.

“You see his imprint on this football team from a physicality standpoint,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “They play good defense. They do a good job on the offensive line as far as moving people. I just think he does an outstanding job.”

Muschamp is obviously impressed.The fact Arkansas and Florida are so similar may have something to do with it.

The teams' playing styles seem to mirror one another. The same probably could be said of the two head coaches in terms of philosophy.

Like the Hogs, the Gators pride themselves on their toughness, their strong running game and winning both lines of scrimmage.

Saturday's SEC game in The Swamp may end up resembling one of those Big Ten brawls we see on television.

The Gators are bracing for it.

“It's going to be a real physical game,” said UF quarterback Tyler Murphy, who is making only his second career start. “They're a real physical team. Their coach coming from Wisconsin, we know a little bit about his past history. They were a very physical Big Ten team.

“Arkansas is going to be physical, and we're going to have to be able to match that and be more physical than they are. They're a good team. They were a few plays away from beating Texas A&M. We're going to have to have a good week of practice and be mentally focused.”

And physically ready, ready for a slugfest, especially on both lines of scrimmage.

“We're a physical team as well,” UF linebacker Michael Taylor said. “We go against this, against physical opponents, every day in practice. We bang in practice. We bang all the way up until the week of the game.

“It's not going to be anything we're not prepared for.”

Taylor said this is the kind of physical game that really gets Muschamp fired up.

“He'll probably be jumping around a lot, running up and down the sideline, having that face everyone's seen,” Taylor said. “You'll probably see that a lot.”

Taylor and his defensive teammates might recognize a lot of the stuff the Razorbacks throw at them Saturday. The Arkansas offense has many similarities to Florida's, UF defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said.

“There are definitely similarities,” Durkin said. “They want to run the ball. We want to run the ball. There are a lot of shifts and motions. They try and formation you a lot. Our offense does that. There are definitely comparisons.

“They've got their set of run plays and they're going to come downhill and run it and make you stop it. So far this year, no one has. That speaks for itself. It's a challenge for all of us. It's 11 guys out there who have to be ready to tackle, take on blocks and have their eyes in the right place.”

Durkin said this will be the most physical offensive line the Gators have faced this season.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I think what they do offensively, that's their style. The guys they have fit that.”

The Razorbacks also have a tailback who obviously fits their downhill running style — true freshman Alex Collins, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in four of five games and is averaging 119.4 yards rushing a game.

“Their style, what they do on offense, really fits him well,” Durkin said. “He's the type of back they want in that offense. It's a big challenge for us.”

The Gators are familiar with Collins, who is from South Plantation. UF was a serious player in his recruitment even though the Gators already had commitments from two other tailbacks — Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane.

“He's an outstanding young man, first of all,” Muschamp said. “He's a heck of a football player, but he's a great young man. We recruited him. At the time, we had two running backs committed.

“He's an outstanding player. Alex is second in our league in rushing. That tells you a lot about his maturity and being able to step in and contribute that quickly.”

Collins is a fast and physical back who will be running behind a physical offensive line.

The Gators know what's coming their way.

“We've just got to prepare ourselves. We're a physical team, too,” sophomore defensive end/outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. said. “That's how we prepare in practice, and I know 'Champ, he emphasizes that with us, too. We're a physical team. It's nothing we're not used to, so we'll be ready."

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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