ATHENS — Florida coach Dan Mullen made sure to mention how impressed he has been Kirby Smart’s coaching on Tuesday after noting how loaded Georgia’s talent is on defense.
Could it be the Mullen was aware of how Smart took umbrage earlier this season when Auburn coach Gus Malzahn praised UGA’s talent level?
Perhaps, but just as likely, Mullen knows his No. 8-ranked Gators (3-1) will have a challenge on their hands against the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (4-1) in the 3:30 p.m. game on Saturday in Jacksonville.
“The talent level they have front to back, and I don’t want to say it’s just players, I think Kirby, they have a great defensive scheme,” Mullen said on his Zoom press conference on Tuesday, asked for his impressions on the Georgia defense.
“They have answers to the questions. He knows it inside and out. They do a good job of putting their guys in great position to make plays, and they’re not afraid to tweak.”
The Bulldogs have had answers for the Gators in the past three meetings, but that defense also has big questions entering into this season’s matchup in Jacksonville.
All-American safety Richard LeCounte out after crashing a dirt bike on Macon Highway on Halloween Night and nose tackle Jordan Davis out or limited after suffering an elbow injury that left him in a sling at Kentucky.
Smart said on Tuesday he expected linebacker Quay Walker (neck) and safety Lewis Cine (ankle) to return from the injuries that forced them out of the 14-3 game at Kentucky last Saturday.
Mullen, whose Gators didn’t get into the end zone for a touchdown until the fourth quarter of last season’s game, said Georgia has a variety of ways to defend.
“They can put big guys in the game to stop the run; they can put pass rushers in the game to get pressure; they can cover and play man coverage; they can try to confuse you with looks and a lot of different zones; they mix it up a lot,” Mullen said.
“They’re a very, very good defensive football team, and it’s not one thing that makes them a great football team, it’s every layer of it that makes them a really good defensive football team.”