Here at knoxvegasvols.com, we try to cover every possible angle when it comes to the Vols next opponent. To get an insider's view of the Florida Gators, we spoke with the editor of gatorraid.com, Joe Morgan.
Here's Joe's breakdown of Saturday's grudge match between the Vols and Gators.
KVV: How big of an impact do you think Shariff Floyd makes in his first game this season?
JM: Floyd was one of the few freshmen from Urban Meyer’s No. 1 class to really deliver on his promise last season--earning a spot on the All-SEC Freshman Team. Having him back could potentially be a game changer this weekend.
Florida has struggled to generate a consistent pass rush in their first two games and Floyd is a disrupter. He’ll create much of havoc that UF has lacked in his absence. It’ll be interesting to see if his presence will be the factor that pushes the Gators’ front seven over the top and starts creating some real pressure on the quarterback.
KVV: Will the youth/inexperience of Florida’s secondary hamper the Gators pressure up front?
JM: The Florida secondary is greener than Albert (the Gators mascot). Granted, they’re talented, but youth and inexperience usually overcome talent. Matt Elam—barring a Will Hill-esque decline—will soon be one of the top safeties in the nation. Safety De’Ante “Pop” Saunders is a hard-hitting tackler (hence the nickname) and cornerback Cody Riggs has his moments.
The guy to keep an eye on is cornerback Marcus Roberson. It was a real coup for Will Muschamp on National Signing Day when he picked UF, and wide receiver Deonte Thompson has even compared Roberson’s talent to that of former Gator Janoris Jenkins. Tyler Bray has a dangerous arm and frankly, these guys are not ready to face this kind of aerial attack.
The Gators will still get pressure though. They just have to be quick. Florida’s defensive backs are good enough to keep up with Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers in the early going, but once those guys kick it into high gear, it will be really tough to stop them, despite a consistent pass rush.
KVV: What is the weakest aspect of Florida’s game going into Saturday?
JM: Again, it’s just the inexperience of the secondary. That’s going to hurt them. Also, if there comes a time where John Brantley has to shoulder the brunt of the offensive load, then that could spell problems for UF. Brantley’s role is of a game manager. So far, Weis’s strategy is that he hasn’t made Brantley do too much. However, he may have no choice if the Vols can contain Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.
Also, the Gators have struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone so far this season. On five occasions, Florida has gone into the red zone and failed to score a touchdown—against FAU and UAB! If Tennessee can lock it down inside the 20, then placekicker Caleb Sturgis will have a very busy day.
KVV: What is the most concerning aspect of Tennessee’s game for the Gators?
JM: Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers. While Tyler Bray’s arm is dangerous, the difference Tennessee should exploit is the experience and size difference between those guys and the Florida corners. In terms of athleticism, the Gators can definitely keep up, but I have a hard time believing that the guys wearing blue will be able to keep up with Hunter and Rogers all day long.
KVV: How much of an influence has Charlie Weis had on John Brantley?
JM: John Brantley just looks more confident. Call it experience. Call it comfort. Whatever label you give it, he has just looked calmer in the pocket. My main issue with him last season was not his inability to run the spread. I thought he too often became flustered when the pocket would collapse around him. His pocket presence has soared from his 2010 level. He looks more like a starting quarterback in the SEC should look.
KVV: Has Brantley improved enough to carry this offense? Does he have to?
JM: No, he has not. While Brantley may look more confident, I think that will instantly vanish if Weis switches up the play calling to a pass-heavy affair. Brantley’s throws have consisted of dumping it to playmakers in flats. Luckily, he doesn’t have to carry the offense. When you have guys like Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, and Trey Burton in the backfield, life is pretty good for a quarterback. So, he only has to throw to keep the defense honest.
Case in point: Florida ran the ball 55 times for 300 yards last week against UAB. While they likely won’t run that wild on the Volunteers, expect the Gators to pound the ball. Weis may be known as a molder of quarterbacks, but he is not afraid to let the running backs do the majority of the work.
KVV: Tennessee’s defensive front is talented, but very young. The same can be said for Florida’s offensive line. Which side has the advantage Saturday?
JM: I’m a big fan of Malik Jackson. I like the presence he brings to the defensive line. He’s not an overwhelming talent, but there’s something about him that I just like as a football fan. But, I think Gators’ offensive line wins this battle and my reasoning for that is left guard Dan Wenger.
Wenger transferred to Florida from Notre Dame after suffering two concussions last season, reuniting with his former offensive line coach Frank Verducci and head coach Charlie Weis in Gainesville. His knowledge of Verducci’s system as well as his overall experience as a sixth-year senior have really helped the UF line progress much faster than expected.
Weis put it best when he said the following during media this week: "If he couldn't play a down, he would have still helped us tremendously because he knows the offense better than the rest of them. Even if he couldn't physically hold up, his intangibles are through the roof."
KVV: Florida is moving to more of a pro-style offense under Weis. But I’ve still seen some aspects of the spread the last couple of weeks. How much spread will the Vols see Saturday?
JM: There were rumblings of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey taking Wildcat snaps in practice, but the most important guy to keep an eye on is Trey Burton. Burton can play running back, fullback, quarterback, tight end, and wide receiver. If Burton is on the field, Charlie Weis may be cooking up something. And he’s on the field for pretty much every play, so good luck trying to figure it out. Overall, the Gators will likely stick to their pro-style shenanigans and may just break out the spread for a quick change of pace or just to keep Tennessee’s defense from getting too comfortable.
KVV: Finish these sentences
Florida wins if...
JM: They can stop, or at least slow down Tennessee’s aerial attack.
Tennessee wins if...
JM: They force John Brantley to be “the man” for the Florida offense.