GAINESVILLE – Florida coach Will Muschamp doesn't even try to pretend that he hasn't patterned his football philosophy around much of what he learned from Nick Saban while an assistant in both the college and NFL levels.
And why not? Alabama has won national titles by focusing a lot on being physical, pounding the ball down other teams' throats when possible. Muschamp tried that his first season in 2011, and finished 7-6. Last year, with Tim Davis arriving as the offensive line coach, he made a second attempt. This time, the Gators went 11-2.
So Davis made an appearance at Tuesday's Space Coast Gator Club gathering, at which money raised goes toward local scholarships to UF, he made another vow.
To keep on pounding.
"Will's got a plan,'' promised Davis, also a former Saban assistant. "Will coached under the devil himself for seven years. I only did three.''
And Saban, nicknamed "Satan'' by haters, loves to pound the rock. Davis reflected that same warm fuzzy feeling when speaking to the local group. Like Saban, Muschamp does not allow assistant coaches other that coordinators to talk with the media.
"Why to by plane,'' said Davis to the Gator gathering, "when you can go by train.''
Jeff Driskel is a year older at quarterback, the running game owns two potential superstars in Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor, who will be known the next several year's as the son of ex-Gator star Fred Taylor whether he likes it or not.
Up front, there's more depth. There's decent experience. And now, there's Davis with a full year under his belt molding those guys on the line who can dominate like a John Deere tractor _ you know, the way Saban likes to do _ and plow people over.
"Control the front,'' said Davis. "That's what it's all about.''
Make no mistake, there's work to do if Muschamp wants to hold a crystal trophy like Saban. UF went from 73rd nationally in rushing with 143 yards per game to No. 39 with 188.02 last season. That's good.
But the Gators allowed three sacks a contest, No. 106 in the country, and finished 114th in passing offense. One side of the offense made huge jumps, the other has to make a tremendous amount of improvement in a hurry. That starts with Driskel, who Muschamp says has made huge strides.
But it also begins with an offensive line that can give him more time and make him more settled in the pocket instead of taking off like a terrified rabbit at times last year or not throwing the ball away when he should have.
"He's become a more polished guy,'' promised Davis of Driskel during the spring. "He's taken on a leadership role. He runs the huddle.''
Davis's story is as interesting as the potential season ahead brings, with players reporting for the start of preseason practices on Aug. 1. He's been around, to put it bluntly.
He played college ball at Utah, in the CFL at Hamilton and in the USFL with the Los Angeles Express (the year before Steve Young came aboard).
His coaching career took him to Wisconsin, Arizona, USC, the Dolphins, Alabama, Minnesota, Utah and now Florida.
There was even a stop at Walla Walla in there.
Florida, of course, isn't Walla Walla. But the game is the same. You win up front, you probably win the game. It's an attitude that has a lot of trophies sitting in Alabama right now and a lot of Crimson Tide linemen preparing for NFL camps. Pound the ball. Open the holes. Dominate up front.
Davis puts the pressure on himself, on his front. If he wins his personal battle, it could be a huge season at UF. And he knows it. But then, Davis explained, he knows a little bit about personal pressure.
Handed a microphone to talk to the crowd but having trouble getting it to work _ and not necessary as loud as he talked _ he handed it back and said, "See. I don't need this. We grew up Irish Catholic. You should see my family. Seven kids around the table, there I sat. There were seven kids, two parents and a dog. There were nine pork chops. I got some of the pork chop.''
Davis predicted that Florida will eat well in the future _ and win a national championship with Muschamp as the head coach in Gainesville.
"He's like the other guy,'' said Davis, again making comparisons to Saban. "But he's got a personality.''