By Dennis Washington
PASADENA, CA (WBRC) - Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp knows he wouldn't be where he is today without Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again: I wouldn't be where I am if it weren't for the opportunities that Nick gave me."
Muschamp spoke Monday to reporters as the Longhorns prepared for the national championship game against Alabama. He recalled when Saban hired him from Valdosta State, a Division II school, at LSU and within a year promoted him to defensive coordinator.
"There's not a lot of coaches that would do that," Muschamp said. "Nick is more worried about reality than he is perception with making decisions and taking the due diligence to make the right decisions for the organization."
Muschamp said he knows he will have his hands full Thursday night against his mentor when the undefeated Longhorns play the undefeated Crimson Tide.
"It's going to come down to the two football teams and those seven or eight plays in the game that determine the outcome of it," Muschamp said. "You don't know when they're going to come."
Muschamp appreciates the extra time to prepare, but admits the long break since the Nebraska win can be too long.
"When you have this much time, regardless of who you're going against, you can't over-think yourself as far as your preparation and things you carry into the game," Muschamp said. "That's what you have to be careful of when you have this much time. You don't want to do too much."
Muschamp said his biggest concern with the long break is tackling, especially against Alabama's three star running backs, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Roy Upchurch.
"You need to be healthy and you need to have your guys fresh," Muschamp said. "Ingram and Richardson and Upchurch are outstanding backs. Obviously winning the Heisman Trophy says enough for himself, and we think Richardson is an outstanding player as a true freshman and has gone a great job for them this year. Tackling is always an issue when you have this much time of layoff going into a Bowl game. We've worked hard at getting ourselves in position to make plays, to make tackles, and that's what you've got to do against this offense."
As for defending the pass, Muschamp said Alabama manages its offense well.
"They don't give themselves a lot of negative plays," Muschamp said. "They're not playing behind in the chains very much, and that's a credit to (Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy.) He does not take sacks."
Muschamp said the key to a victory Thursday night will be intensity.
"The players are a reflection of their coach," Muschamp said. "I want our guys to be excited about playing, and I want them to be passionate about playing and playing well for Texas. If they don't play that way, they won't play for Texas."
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