Q. Is this a stretch of games where we will find out how good the defense can be?
Will Muschamp: “I think so, starting with Arkansas. We haven’t faced anyone that plays with the physicality, the quality backs, and match ups outside. We have to play well on the edges, tackle well, and play blocks. We haven’t played a team this physical.”
Q. What is the key for the defense to continue in the mode of last year?
Will Muschamp: “To be good defensively you need to be a good tackling team and we have tackled well. You have to be able to play blocks up front and we have played blocks up front. You have to be able to play man and rush four guys. I think any time you can rush four guys and pressure or affect the quarterback it gives you a chance to be successful. If you keep bringing five and six guys, good teams are going to be able to go outside. We have been able to get pressure with four. All of those things combined have helped this defense this year.”
Q. How fortunate is it that you have a quarterback like Murphy to step in and be successful? What does it speak for your team to have these kind of injuries but remain competitive?
Will Muschamp: “It speaks volumes of Tyler and what kind of man he is. We have a ‘man down, man up’ (philosophy) here that when you sign to play here you are expected to compete and play for championships. We don’t make excuses about injuries and things. We recruited well and are a far cry from where we were two years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to withstand some of the injuries we have now. We have recruited well and have depth on the roster. When guys go down we expect our competition level to stay the same.”
Q. Do you look at certain type of players to build that depth? (Like the similarities between Murphy and Driskel)
Will Muschamp: “Tyler was here and was recruited by the previous staff. We came in and signed Jeff. They do have very similar athletic qualities. Both guys have some running ability and are accurate with the ball. There is a lot of carryover within what they do. That helps us as far as with Brent Pease as a play caller for them to have a similar skill set at the quarterback position.”
Q. How encouraging is Matt’s game against Kentucky for the offense as a whole?
Will Muschamp: “I was very pleased with Matt’s performance, but a lot of that goes to the offensive line. We got a hat on a hat in the running game and did a nice job. For us to be successful we need to have guys to be able to make some big plays in the running game and make some big runs for us. The big run was probably the one I was most pleased with, it was blocked extremely well, but he made a couple of nice cuts on the play. I thought he ran extremely well. The other run I was extremely pleased with was a fourth down and they had a guy in the hole and he made a nice cut to get the first down.
“I think we have other capable guys, Mack Brown, Kelvin Taylor and some guys that can help us.”
Q. How key is it to be able to run when you want to in any given game?
Will Muschamp: “It just helps you in so many ways from the stand point of throwing the football and protecting the quarterback. As a defensive coach you want to make this a one dimensional game. You want to take away the run and force your defensive line to key back and rush the passer. When they aren’t worried about playing the run, that’s when you have some issues offensively. The way we are building it at this point, we need to have teams respecting our running game.”
Q. Alex Collins, Denver Kirkland, Javontee Herndon, what do you know about them and will they have more incentive playing against Florida?
Will Muschamp: “We recruited Alex and he is a great young man. He is a heck of a football player but an outstanding young man. So much of the recruiting process is timetable. We have a certain number of people we want at key positions and at the time we had two running backs committed. He is certainly an outstanding young player, we offered, and recruited. We think the world of him. Kirkland is another young man that we recruited hard. Javontee signed with Arkansas previous to my arrival.
“There are so many good players in our state and you can’t sign them all. They are going to go to other schools. Everybody in the country recruits the state of Florida. At the end of the day, the guys we sign are the guys we worry about. I have to worry about the others on one given Saturday during the year.
“We have great respect for those three young men as playmakers. Denver came in and started the A&M game and did an outstanding job for them, played tackle and guard for them. Alex is second in our league in rushing and that tells you a lot about his maturity and being able to step in and contribute that quickly. Herndon is a very good football player.”
Q. What is the best explanation for all the high scoring games in the league so far?
Will Muschamp: “I think experience at the quarterback position is where it starts. If you look at the NFL teams that go to the playoffs every year you see Peyton Manning’s team and Tom Brady’s team and whatever other quarterback is playing well. It all goes to that position and that’s why it is that critical defensively, to affect the quarterback.
“More teams are more up-tempo so you are seeing more snaps. And more opportunity to score, but the experience at the quarterback position is key.
Q. Mike Davis, did you feel like when he was in high school and coming out, was he going to be as explosive as he has been?
Will Muschamp: “Absolutely. We thought Mike was a really good player. He has done an outstanding job for South Carolina and really changed the game for them last week against Central Florida. He is a really good football player.”
Q. What have you gotten out of the tight end position this year?
Will Muschamp: “We have been very good as far as blocking and Clay Burton had his best game as far as that is concerned. Tevin Westbrook has been good at that. I have been very disappointed that Colin Thompson hurt his foot again. I felt like he was really turning the corner for us and becoming that really dependable guy and a guy that can really help us. Kent Taylor has been banged up with an ankle and just got back on the practice field this week.
“I am a little frustrated as far as production in the passing game. We would like to get more out of it. Trey Burton has assumed that role and done a nice job in the slot, very similar to the way we used Jordan (Reed) in the slot as a receiver. He has been more of a guy we have counted on in the passing game instead of the rushing game. I think we have gotten the production from the position just from a different type of body doing it. Gideon Ajagbe has been used a little in that position and Hunter Joyer runs a little bit in the underneath route concepts that we use in that position.”
Q. Has it been hard to recruit at that position signing two guys in the same year?
Will Muschamp: “It is very difficult to sign fullbacks, tight ends, and linebackers. In high school there aren’t many fullbacks any more. Tight ends are usually bigger receivers that are playing in the slot. Then they have to put their hands in the dirt and asked to block someone. It is very difficult to find good linebackers because most are playing defensive end as they are rushing the passer against the spread offenses in high school.
“You have to do a lot of projecting and have to find good athletes that have good bulk, have ball judgment, and catch the ball well. They also have to be able to block in-line and that is hard to find.”
Q. Do you believe defenses will eventually catch up to the offenses?
Will Muschamp: “I think it all goes in cycles. I was in the Big-12 for three years and it was a very big adjustment for me coming from the SEC to the Big-12 with as much spread as they play. There weren’t any two-back teams and nobody that played a physical style. It was very different. You have to be able to play in space, tackle in space, play man-to-man, be able to rush four guys.
“Our league has changed a little bit. You look at what Kentucky has gone to, Missouri coming into the league, and Texas A&M. You are getting more of those elements into the league and have to change your recruiting philosophy a little in terms of signing pass rushers. The most exerting thing you do on the football field is rushing the passer. Once you run out of gas you are done. You better have guys that can rush the passer.”
Q. Can you talk about what Brandon Allen did for the offense coming back for Arkansas last week?
Will Muschamp: “There is no question you could see it was a shot in the arm for them offensively. Brandon has a big arm and can throw it from the field out and from hash to field side, can make the vertical throws down the field. Hunter Henry has been a really good addition for them at the tight end position. I think they are talented at receiver with Herndon. You mix what they have outside with the running game and what they can do with play action and moving the pocket. It was a shot in the arm for the offense to get Brandon back.”