Alabama football has not Florida at “The Swamp” in 10 years.
Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide will make their return on Saturday to open the Southeastern Conference schedule.
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We have a highly-anticipated matchup on our hands, as Gator Nation feels this is the best chance to beat the Tide. After some disappointing practice sessions last week, Saban was pleased with the energy and focus of the players. Alabama lost some guys from its 2020 SEC Championship team, but Bryce Young is ready to own the SEC stage with his teammates. This matchup also presents Pete Golding an opportunity to prove he was the right choice for defensive coordinator. As we prepare to get another chapter added to a fun rivalry, yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine highlights the impactful players for the Tide.
Chris Owens, OL
Alabama’s offensive line must protect Bryce Young against an aggressive Florida defense.
Chris Owens struggled versus Miami and Mercer at right tackle, and he admitted to it last week. He has to have his best performance outside and offset the Gators’ pass rush.
The 6-foot-3, 305-pounder has the capability to be better than serviceable as an offensive tackle, but Alabama fans need to see it from Owens.
Dameion George and JC Latham are young players that possess a high ceiling; nevertheless, the sixth-year senior gets another shot to prove the coaching staff right for going with him.
The Tide will look for Owens to set things up in pass protection and the rushing attack.
Bryce Young, QB
He has recorded seven touchdowns in two games, but Saturday presents Bryce Young with his first road test.
The sophomore enters a hostile environment; nevertheless, it could be a moment for him to unleash his Heisman campaign on a national stage. He’s been focused during this week of practice and has prepared himself to perform well under pressure.
His seven scores are tied for fourth in the nation among starting quarterbacks. Young must also trust his athleticism when opportunities arrive for him to run the ball. If he can keep the Gators’ defense off-balance, Bill O’Brien will be able to open Alabama’s offense up and have fun. Expect for Young and the Tide to take shots early against Florida’s defensive secondary.
Drew Sanders, OLB
Alabama fans could see Will Anderson against Florida, but this is a huge moment for Drew Sanders.
As a former five-star from Texas, Sanders is fifth on the team in tackles. He has eight stops and two pass breakups through two games.
The 6-foot-5, 244-pounder did a great job versus Mercer in winning the edge.
He brought pressure at outside linebacker, stopped the run, and deflected two passes — including one that resulted in an interception by Ga’Quincy “Kool-Aid” McKinstry.
Chris Braswell and Dallas Turner will get reps if Anderson cannot play. Braswell, a former five-star from Maryland, replaced Anderson last week in the second half. He recorded a blocked punt that Jase McClellan recovered for a touchdown.
Braswell has physicality (6-3/240) and pass-rush moves to affect the Gators. Turner, a true freshman, is another five-star and Saturday’s game serves as a homecoming for him.
Tide fans want to see him in action because he is an elite talent.
Overall, Sanders has this situation to continue building his name.
Josh Jobe, CB
Alabama held him out against Mercer, but Josh Jobe returns to his starting position versus Florida.
A native of Miami, Fla., Jobe projects as a first-rounder for the 2022 NFL Draft. He will have pro scouts watching his technique and performance against the Gator weapons. Both quarterbacks for Florida are known for their feet, but Jobe cannot afford to bail them out with penalties.
He can be physical; however, he must also be conscious of his playing style on the field.
Henry To’oto’o, LB
Henry To’oto’o is the biggest reason to feel confident about Alabama this week.
He has played against Florida twice as a middle linebacker for Tennessee. The newest defensive piece for the Tide knows how to attack the Gators’ offense. To’oto’o is tied with Christian Harris for the team lead in total tackles (13) and has done a great job of communicating the calls. With him in the middle, Alabama has allowed 13.5 points per game — including four shutout quarters.
He will contain Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson of Florida while stopping the run too.
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