Vince Ferrara joined the Gator Country podcast to preview the Tennessee Volunteers vs. Florida Gators football game this Saturday in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre ask Ferrara some questions about how he thinks the match-up will be, plus we discuss how he thinks the Florida Gators football staff should prepare for Tennessee this week.
Also on this podcast Ferrara gives Gator Country his prediction on the game, plus tells everyone who has the most pressure on them this weekend in Gainesville.
Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? It is Tennessee week. It is hate week. It is whatever, hillbilly Tennessee.
Nick: This is what Andrew’s been building up towards for months now.
Andrew: It has been. Nick, I’m going to start calling you Tammy from Paul Finebaum, because I know that you and her have this close knit relationship. What’s your situation like?
Nick: I do not listen to Paul Finebaum. He is college football’s version of Jerry Springer, and that is not my cup of tea.
Andrew: It is your cup of tea. You’re Tammy from Paul Finebaum. Anyway, we’re going to be joined by the Vince from Tennessee radio out in Knoxville. He’s going to come on and probably fill us with a bunch of bull crap about how great Tennessee is and all this other bull crap that is not relevant. We’re over the overrated Volunteers already.
Nick: Cutting through Andrew’s bias this week, Vince is a good guy.
Andrew: He is a good guy.
Nick: Very good friend of Andrew and I. We had a chance to meet him a couple years ago out at SEC Media Days, and Vince brings me on his station. I was sipping the sweet Tennessee creamsicle Kool-Aid at SEC Media Days, and that Kool-Aid is tasting a little bitter after the Oklahoma game.
Andrew: It’s not just the Oklahoma game though. It’s the season in general. You look at their first game. Then you look at the Oklahoma game. You look at this past game. Josh Dobbs still is not a good quarterback. He’s still not a good quarterback. He’s just an okay quarterback.
Nick: I think I bought into moving into his junior year that there would be a leap, because he showed some progression throughout the tail end of the year, and I think I bought into that there would be another big jump, and you really just haven’t seen it from him. Still a guy that I think could Florida problems if the tackling isn’t sound, because he is a very mobile quarterback. So I think Florida just needs to dot their I’s, cross their T’s as far as tackling goes, because if you’re not going to tackle Joshua Dobbs he’s going to rattle off a couple extra yards, and those can start to add up.
Andrew: Got to make Josh Dobbs beat you. Stop Kavara. Stop Jalen Hurd. Make Dobbs beat you. I don’t think Dobbs is there. The thing is heading into this game before the year I would’ve thought that Florida would have the pressure on them, but Tennessee’s fan base went from the most overrated arrogant piece of crap fan base ever to now the this is not a very good team. Butch Jones is not a very good football coach, to concern. I love it.
Nick: I think there’s pressure on both teams, and any time you have a streak like a 10 game streak there’s pressure on both teams. Nobody in Florida’s locker room wants to be the team that ends that streak, so that’s where the pressure comes for Florida.
The pressure for Tennessee is Tennessee fans are tired, sick and tired of losing to Florida, and Butch Jones there were rumblings even as everyone was high on Tennessee in the off season. There were rumblings about I don’t like Butch Jones’s decisions on game day. I don’t like his play calling. None of that has ceased or cooled down. Butch Jones, Tennessee drives down on Oklahoma, 4th and 1 from the goal line he chooses to kick a field goal. A lot of the fans, there were boos in the very first drive of the game against Oklahoma. Fans wanted them to go for it there. Butch Jones will lose a lot of standing with Tennessee fans if Florida wins their 11th game in a row this Saturday.
I think there is a little bit more pressure on Tennessee, but I do see that there is still pressure on Florida, and a lot of that, and I think you and I have talked about this off the air, is this is a swing game for both teams.
Andrew: It is.
Nick: As far as two young teams, this could really shoot you in one direction or the other in terms of building momentum or completely damaging your mental psyche going into the rest of the season. Both teams have very tough stretches coming up.
Andrew: Yeah, and you just hit on several different points. Let’s rewind here. Butch Jones a little bit. There were rumblings about that, because 1-18 against Top 25 teams. Will Muschamp was better than that. That’s not good, and there’s a lot of criticism about him not being able to make game calls in tough situations. Let’s face it. Saturday is going to be a tough situation. The crowd’s going to be rocking. The players are going to be riled up. McElwain’s going to have his guys ready. Tennessee’s going to be ready. Butch Jones has got to make the play calls. It is a big game. People are frustrated with Butch Jones big time.
The swing game, it is a swing game. Florida needs this game in a bad, bad way, because next week is going to be rough. It is going to be a bad game against Ole Miss. It’s going to be rough.
Nick: To that point, to lead you a little bit here. After this game for Florida is Ole Miss, at a bad Missouri team, but that is a tough trip to make all the way to Missouri, and then at LSU, bye week, Georgia. Tough schedule. Tennessee gets a reeling Arkansas after Florida at home. They get Georgia, who’s looked very good at home, and then they have to go to Alabama, so a very tough stretch after this game for both teams.
Andrew: It is, and Florida needs this for a lot of reasons. It’s the first big game under McElwain in the Swamp. This is McElwain’s first opportunity to truly take back the Swamp.
Nick: I agree with that statement.
Andrew: Spurrier and Urban, they had the Swamp. The Swamp was deadly to go to. You didn’t want to go to the Swamp if you were an opposing team. That was lost under Will Muschamp. There was no home field advantage for Florida at the Swamp except for you had to stay at a hotel the night before on the road. This is a big game for that.
Recruiting wise it’s a big game for that. Player wise it is. I think that while the players do not want to be that team to lose to it I don’t sense that they’re tight about that. Quincy had a great quote yesterday. “They haven’t beaten us in 10 years, and we’re looking forward to keeping that going.” To me that comes off as a player that understands the streak, but also isn’t afraid of what’s in front of him. I think that that is a lot because 29 last week against Kentucky. That helped kind of build that up a little bit.
It’s going to be a very good football game, but when you start to look at the matchups we’ll talk to Vince about here in a few minutes, it’s a matchup of where Florida’s bad, Tennessee’s bad. Where Florida’s good, Tennessee’s good. It’s not like Florida is going to be bad in areas that Tennessee’s great in. That’s where I’m looking at with this game. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, their linebacker for them, he says that they play in Knoxville. They play in Neyland Stadium, and that’s a top tier stadium, and that he’s not afraid of the Swamp for noise. Nick, you and I just talked about this off the air. I’ve talked to several former players at Alabama and Auburn who’ve told me that Florida and LSU are the two loudest stadiums they play in, because the noise escapes Neyland Stadium. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, whatever your name is, because you can’t have one name or two names, you’ve got a rude awakening coming for you on Saturday.
Nick: I had the opportunity, it was my first time to visit Neyland Stadium last season. That is a loud place, but I agree with what Andrew’s saying. The construction, the way the Swamp is built, it goes straight up, even if you’re in that top row you still don’t feel like you’re very far away from the action. In Tennessee the stadium is bigger, holds more people, but it kinds of moves out, and the sound can kind of escape. I saw the same thing at Alabama, another 100,000 plus seat stadium, but the sound kind of escapes. That one was even wider than Neyland. The Swamp will be rocking. The wear blue initiative is in full effect for the 3:30 kickoff.
I wanted to touch on something that you mentioned, and that was where Florida is good, Tennessee is good, and you also said you need to make Josh Dobbs beat you. Right now Tennessee is the third best rushing team in the country, not in the country, in the SEC, averaging 246 yards per game. Florida has the best rush defense in the SEC averaging 55 yards per game. Something has got to give there. I think Tennessee will definitely not run for that average, but when you look at the history of this game the team who wins the rushing battle is the team who wins the game.
Nick: Florida being able to stop Tennessee’s rushing game, saying if you’re going to beat us it’s going to be on the shoulder of Josh Dobbs, not because of Alvin Kamara and Jalen Hurd.
Andrew: Alvin Kamara rushing 7.5 yards per attempt. I would be willing to bet my next paycheck that goes down after this game.
Nick: I would also agree with that.
Andrew: I don’t want to spoil our interview here with Vince in just a second, but I do want to say this real quick. Florida’s offensive line’s bad, Tennessee’s isn’t much better. That says to me, when you look at Oklahoma they just played Tulsa this past weekend. Tulsa was running all over Oklahoma, so not a good Oklahoma defense at all by any means. Offensively while the running game is there for Tennessee, up front they’re not great, and guess what? You’re facing probably the best defensive line, Florida’s best defensive line game they’ve played in a long time last Saturday in Kentucky.
Nick: Yeah. I really think that is going to be crucial. Tennessee hasn’t played many good defenses. They get Bowling Green in the first game. Oklahoma’s defense looked susceptible to the run, and then Western Carolina last week. This is absolutely the best defense that Tennessee will play, and the crowd will be hostile in Gainesville this week. Big matchup. I think the key is it’s still the SEC. You’re still trying to win in the trenches, and right now I think I would give that advantage to Florida. Florida’s run defense over Tennessee’s run offense. That’s a big factor in this game. As you mentioned, Tennessee’s offensive line, not great. They’ve given up more sacks then Florida has this year, playing against those defenses that aren’t that great.
I think this could be a big day. If Florida can stop the run early, get a lead, force Tennessee into passing downs. I think you see guys like Alex McCallister, Jon Bullard, Cece Jefferson, and Bryan Cox really go to town and eat on Saturday. Remember, this is Bryan Cox who had three sacks against Tennessee last year in Neyland two days after his grandfather passed. Bryan Cox remembers these offensive linemen very well. I think four or five returned for Tennessee. That’s a big game for him. He’s got confidence going into this game.
This game is going to be won in the trenches. Tennessee has very good wide receivers. They’re big, and they’re physical. Florida’s defensive backs are big and physical. People thought Quincy Wilson was going to be a safety because he was so big. Jalen Tabor’s 6’ tall, 200 pounds. Even though Vernon Hargreaves is only 5’10”, 5’11”, he is built like a safety. He is physical at the line of scrimmage. I like how Florida’s defensive backs match up with these big wide receivers of Tennessee.
Andrew: Yeah. Last quick point before we go to Vince, Josh Dobbs playing at a high style environment at Florida with a bad offensive line could mean disaster. Nick, let’s bring on the enemy, Mr. Vince, even though he’s a friend of ours this week he’s enemy territory, and I think I may have to give him a Boomer Sooner somewhere in this. Let’s go to Vince real quick.
Nick: We are joined by Vince Ferrara. Did I say that correctly?
Vince: No, but that’s all right. I haven’t thrown you out of the Italian family yet for that. Vincenzo Ferrara.
Nick: You got my name right on your radio show. I can at least try to return the favor. Vince, we met a couple years back at SEC Media Days. Good guy, does a lot of stuff up there in Knoxville for Tennessee. Vince, how you doing?
Vince: I’m great, gentlemen. Great to be with you guys and talk some big week of Tennessee and Florida with you.
Nick: I feel like I am the mediator here. We’ve got Vince who covers Tennessee. Everyone who listens to the podcast knows about Andrew’s war path against the Vols leading up to this week. I am just going to play the mediator and make sure there’s no fisticuffs during our podcast.
Andrew: I like Vince, so I will take it easy on Vince. His fan base, I can’t say that I like your fan base, Vince. Let me say this. I’m glad you cover the Vols and not me, buddy.
Vince: I’m not going to take it personally. I graduated from USF, so we have no dog in the fight, and we’re irrelevant. I cover Tennessee, and I’ll give it to you positive or negative, however you bring it. I’ll still call you out if I think you’re unfair on them, but you could be spot on on some things too. We’ll find out.
Andrew: Let’s start off with this, Vince. This is what Nick and I have talked about. You and I just talked about this before we came on. I feel like heading into the season the Tennessee fan base was confident, and I understand the confidence. There was a lot of good things in the season. For me, they’ve under performed as a unit this year from Butch Jones’s play calling to Dobbs at the quarterback position, to the offensive line. In general, and I’m pretty accurate in saying that it’s been a underwhelming year so far?
Vince: They have not looked as good in getting their 2-1 record as I think a lot of people felt like they would, even if the record would have still been where it is at 2-1. There have been some things to point to and some areas of obvious criticism. They haven’t been able to throw down the field successfully with Dobbs, even when they were rolling up the 59 on Bowling Green. Really, they didn’t need to, because the running game was so dominated and Bowling Green’s defense was so bad, but they looked unstoppable on offense. So even if they could have come close to doing anything like that you felt like they were going to be tough to stop later on in the year.
Against, Oklahoma, obviously jumped out to the 17-0 lead, and then went conservative and didn’t really try to put Oklahoma away, went aggressive that field goal attempt from the six inch yard line on 4th and inches, 4th and goal. Fans are still talking about that, and that’s the way they’re viewing Butch is one that’s conservative and not going to take enough chances and not coach to win. So that’s something that I don’t think anyone had in their mind too. Then also against Western Carolina, you really can’t take a ton out of that. The best throw down the field was by true freshman quarterback Quinten Dormady. So now fans are already starting to bring him up. If Dobbs doesn’t play well against Florida, can we see Quinten Dormady?
That’s not surprising, Andrew. That’s the volatility, positive and negative, the exaggeration of emotions that I expected from this fan base this year, because they are so desperate and starving for a winner, and they’ve been through so much and put through the wringer for so many years now, since Fulmer was fired, that that’s the way it is. Everything is going to be exaggerated. They haven’t looked as good, so you’re right on that, but I don’t think it is maybe as drastic, perhaps you may feel like it’s a more drastic disappointment. The Florida game clears up anything else. If they play well and win, anything that happened before, flush it. It doesn’t matter. That’s where they’re going to be positive about moving forward.
Andrew: Let me ask you this. From Florida’s standpoint, Will Grier, Treon Harris haven’t looked good at quarterback because of the offensive line. Tennessee has given up more sacks than Florida. How much of Josh Dobbs passing is credited to the offensive line not holding up?
Nick: It’s actually a three tiered, and you’re right, Andrew. Part of it is that offensive line, and you wonder. As you know, you mentioned Grier and Harris, it is connected. You can’t just judge them 100% in a bubble on their own. Each one impacts the other. So the offensive line is an issue, especially against Oklahoma, and especially when Oklahoma, they adjusted as the game went on. They started to send more blitzes. I think there’s a couple reasons for that. One, they realized Tennessee couldn’t handle it. Two, they realized Tennessee couldn’t throw down the field, weren’t willing to, and with any accuracy. Tennessee could never adjust to that. They didn’t make Oklahoma pay. The offensive line had a little something to do with that, but I think you should be able to adjust to that.
Then the other factor is the receivers. I’ve said that there’s a trust breakdown somewhere, especially in their down the field passing game. It may be, Butch Jones kind of alluded to it without directly calling anyone out. He says sometimes it’s the receiver not getting open or not getting off a jam or not running precise routes. Sometimes it’s the quarterback’s accuracy. Sometimes it’s the offensive line not doing the right thing and not protecting as well. He said it always seems to be one area or the other that breaks down, which to me is worse than having just one flaw that you can address. That’s the way it’s been sort of credited to, that it’s not just one thing. It’s all those factors.
I actually would throw in a fourth, and I think it’s coaching. I don’t think they let their playmakers be playmakers. I think they view their receivers as all the same, and they run them in and out. They’ll substitute within a drive. They won’t just say, this guy has this skill set, and we’ll throw it up to him and let him go make plays. I don’t think they do that enough. Occasionally they will, but not enough, because they like to have guys operate within their system. Those are four factors kind of laid out on what could be impacting Joshua Dobbs. There’s probably a little bit of all of those in play.
Andrew: Florida has the same problem, rotation. They’re rotating eight, nine guys at receiver.
Nick: They’re rotating everybody. Eight guys at receiver. We thought that that receiver rotation would get a little bit smaller once you got into SEC play, but seven different guys caught a pass, a ton of guys were rotating in. They’re rotating in eight, nine offensive linemen in each game.
I want to get to, we’ve talked about Dobbs. Right now Tennessee is running the ball efficiently, 246 yards a game. The defenses they’ve played haven’t been very good at stopping the run. Florida has been very good at stopping the run, only allowing 55 yards per game on the ground. During the streak, the team that runs the ball better tends to win this game. Florida’s been able to run the ball better. If you’re Florida, do you take an approach of stop Jalen Hurd, stop Alvin Kamara. If we’re going to lose this game it’s going to be because Josh Dobbs makes a play with his arm?
Vince: Yes. I do. I think the blueprint is there. Western Carolina probably saw it on tape with the Oklahoma game, and they couldn’t do anything about it. They don’t have the players to. Florida does. Florida also has the advantage of being able to man up on the outside and then be able to, if they want to, or at certain looks, commit more guys to the box to the run game. I think they’re good enough, even if they don’t load up the box, to stop the run, but if they want to, if they still need the extra guy, I think that’s an advantage that Florida has in flexibility on defense. So I would take that approach.
I would blitz. I would load the box. I would force Tennessee to prove that they are willing and able to throw down the field and make them pay for it, and start to slow down that running game. I think Tennessee sometimes too, I think they tend to be too between the tackles. When they were really good against Bowling Green they would do some stuff on the O line we didn’t see last year. We didn’t see them really pull in the center or pull in guards. They were more mobile in getting to the perimeter. Obviously, it’s different. Bowling Green didn’t have the athletes that Florida does.
I’d like to see Tennessee do it because they think they can have success running on the perimeter and not just between the tackles, rather than, wait, that defense is fast, there’s no way we can get to the edge, and then not even try and then be predictable in the middle. I think that’s what they did against Oklahoma. I think Tennessee needs to stick to the running game, vary their running game, but be committed to it, and then take the shots down the field, because if I’m Florida I would force them to prove they can do it.
Andrew: This is kind of where my question of this game comes on. I think Tennessee’s offense versus Florida’s defense will work itself out. I do give the advantage to Florida defensively, and then I give Tennessee the advantage defensively over Florida’s offense, but I know that you guy’s secondary was kind of hit hard with injuries. How has Todd Kelly and the younger Berry done? I know they had good games against Western Carolina, but overall how do you think they performed, and what are the keys on defense for Tennessee?
Vince: You’re right. They have had injuries back there, but that’s probably the area where going into the year you thought that might be their deepest group. The problem is the guy that has hurt them the most isn’t coming back, and that’s sophomore Rashaan Gaulden. He had clearly won the nickel spot. The physicality, the football instincts, that’s really trickled down, because since that move they’ve had a journeyman, more of a special teams type of guy, Malik Foreman, take that spot at nickel. Another guy that was competing for it in Justin Martin, a Juco transfer, he was injured late in camp, so that set him back, and he hasn’t been able to get into the mix. When he has, now he’s working at outside corner. It’s basically Malik Foreman and a true freshman in Micah Abernathy at that nickel spot.
That has been an issue. Oklahoma took advantage of that big time, because they put Sterling Shepherd there, and with of Tennessee’s looks when they would zone up, they would get Shepherd isolated on Colton Jumper, the walk-on linebacker who started the first couple games. Now it’s Darrin Kirkland, who’s a lot more athletic, but he’s a true freshman. So that was a huge issue for them. That’s still there. Then your second corner has been an issue too in Emmanuel Moseley. Better against Oklahoma then he was against Bowling Green, but the defense got lit up in the pass game by Bowling Green and their passing game. They did it to Maryland too. They’re really good, but that’s still two areas of concern to me.
The other corner, Cam Sutton, I think’s fantastic. I think he’s second to Vernon Hargreaves in corners in this league. What they don’t do that I think Florida seems to do, correct me if I’m wrong, is at times Vernon Hargreaves they’ll move him around to different spots, sometimes match him up, and they won’t just leave him in one spot. Tennessee leaves him, leaves Cam Sutton at right corner. They can put their third receiver, they can put their fourth receiver over there if they want to. Tennessee’s just going to leave him there, and sometimes they’re still going to play two deep safety, so it’s not like they’re just going to leave him on an island and then use the other defenders to help out in another area. I wish they would, but I think it’s because they don’t trust if they move Cam Sutton and match him up on the inside to the slot receiver, I think they’re afraid of just getting torched over the top if that nickel moves to the outside.
As far as the safeties go, Brian Randolph has been there. He’s a veteran, 40 starts, at least 40 games played and up there in starts. Then Todd Kelly, Jr. has done better than Evan Berry. Evan Berry struggled in the Bowling Green game when he was in there. Todd Kelly, Jr. was in the hospital and came in late. He missed a lot of time during the week. When he came in he settled things down a little bit. I thought he was very good against Oklahoma, but Darrell McNeal was out with what was thought to maybe be a career ending neck injury. Got a second opinion in Dallas, and then he came back. He was allowed to practice and came back last week, had an interception. I still think he’s not going to start, they’re going to work him back in, but they’ve got veterans back there. I would still worry about the nickel and that second outside corner though as well.
Nick: Talking about the secondary there, but a big change for Tennessee getting defensive tackle Danny O’Brien back from a suspension for violation of team rules. Does he fit in, jump right back into a starting role for Tennessee this week? How can he affect what a weak Florida offensive line, there is no way to say it nicely. Florida’s offensive line didn’t get a push in the run game against ECU, and they certainly didn’t get a push in the run game against Kentucky. What does getting O’Brien back do for the Tennessee rush defense?
Vince: He’s not a difference maker, but he adds a very important element in that he’s another guy in the rotation. Tennessee has been reluctant against the better teams, especially against Oklahoma, they were reluctant to play their freshmen tackles, those five stars, Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle, too much. So they relied on their three veterans. They have three veterans in the tackle rotation in O’Brien, Vickers, Kendal Vickers and Owen Williams. Whether O’Brien starts, I think they pretty much will all rotate equally. So I don’t think it’s a huge deal, but I think he’ll play. Butch Jones wasn’t willing to say he was going to play for sure. He said he wasn’t on the travel squad, but that was to be determined later. He’s not going to bring it up and talk about it if he’s not bringing him, and he needs him. If he’s reinstating him, and he needs him, guess what’s going to happen? He’s going to take him. You know how coaches work. So I think he’ll play a lot, even if he doesn’t start.
To me that’s another area of concern with the Tennessee defense is they have really talent freshmen, but I think this coaching staff they prefer some of the veteran guys, and I think they’re a little bit reluctant to put those guys out too quickly, but Tennessee needs them. They need Kyle Phillips, another five star defensive end. No Curt Maggitt, which is a huge factor on defense for Tennessee as well. They need to put those guys out there and hope they can make difference making plays, even if at times they’re going to make freshmen mistakes.
Andrew: Who replaces Curt? There is no replacement, I understand that, but who is a guy that is going to bring the pressure from the defensive line in his place?
Vince: Last week for the Western Carolina, the first snap of the Western Carolina game, it was LaTroy Lewis, who has dealt with injuries in a lot of camp and then got back late. That was a little bit of a surprise to us. Not that he wasn’t capable, but that he got back in the starting lineup quickly. Corey Vereen normally is the guy that whenever Curt, when they’re in the base or whenever Curt Maggitt’s not there it’s Corey Vereen, but I think there’s a big drop off there. Vereen gives you effort, and he’s solid, but Maggitt paired with Barnett last year was as good of a pass rushing end duo as you could find in this league.
I think, because Maggitt hasn’t been in there, and maybe in the first game, I don’t know if it was motivation or what, they haven’t been the difference making defensive line that Tennessee fans, and I think frankly a lot of us in the media, expected them to be. Barnett hasn’t been the dominate force that you thought he would and the way he was in conference play last year. He turned it up in SEC play year, but without having a difference maker I think he’s seeing a lot more attention, and I think he’s finding out he’s got to figure out different ways to be able to impact the game. T
hat’s why I think they need to try to play Kyle Phillips, because if that kid, as a five star freshman, if he can get to the edge and he has a quick first step, really athletic, and if he can come in there and give you a flash and give you another guy for teams to worry about I think that could free up Barnett. It’s an issue right now. It’s a drop off.
As far as when they’re in the base, they’re not in the base very much. They fit Austin Smith, who is another true freshman, at a spot, but we rarely see them in their base. Probably we will see them more because of Florida’s pro-style offense. We may see them more in this game, but it wouldn’t surprise me also if Tennessee tries to maybe slide a Todd Kelly, Jr. at times. If they’re going to play LaDarrell McNeal at safety, slide Todd Kelly, Jr. down. I think Florida does that with their safety as well at linebacker. I think we could see some of that if they don’t quite trust the freshman at Maggitt’s spot in those power looks.
Andrew: Florida just came back from a hostile Kentucky crowd. It was hostile. I know we laugh about it, because Kentucky shouldn’t be hostile, but it was. This is Josh Dobbs, I guess, loudest stadium he’ll play in as a starter, in my opinion, besides Neyland. How is Tennessee preparing for that?
Nick: Neyland gets a little quiet when the offense is playing.
Andrew: That’s exactly what I’m saying. I guess, how big is that for this young team to come to a hostile Tennessee, and is it a talking point that Butch is talking about right now?
Nick: Before you get into that, Vince, Jim McElwain even said that Florida went completely silent count just going into a 63,000 seat Kentucky. How much can that possibly mess with the offense and mess with Dobbs if they have to switch the count up to completely silent going into the game?
Vince: He didn’t talk about it really on Monday. It’s kind of a little bit like Saban, those external factors, and McElwain’s probably, I’m surprised he even alluded to it, because McElwain’s obviously from the Saban tree. Those external factors, they really play them down. I think they practice with loud crowds and piped in audio. There’s no stone unturned for Butch Jones from that standpoint. It doesn’t mean they always adjust great during a game, but from a preparation standpoint I do think they work on it best they can. Here’s the thing. With their pace on offense a lot of times there’s a plan on what to do, and there’s not a ton of adjustments. You see some teams that are hurry up, they’ll get to the line, and then they’ll stop and look over to the sideline. I think we saw that a little bit more last year with Bajakian than we’ve seen that with DeBord.
The key is for them to have successful plays, and then another thing Tennessee does that I’m not really a fan of is they substitute their receivers in and out a lot. If you’re trying to wear defenses down, and maybe eliminate or lessen the crowd effect, I think you run with the same receivers throughout a drive, and then you keep them in the game and keep them on that side of the field, and then you hurry up to the line, and then you keep going. Tennessee will slow itself down, because they’ll substitute. They’ll switch a receiver from one side to the other, give defenses a time to catch their breath.
I don’t think from that standpoint the noise aspect of it, it’s the other elements of the pressure that I think is something that, to me, I’ve got to see it before I believe it that they can overcome it, more so than just the noise and the functioning of it. With Worley last year, I’ll tell you, it was an issue, but he didn’t really fit the system. I think they can run at a faster pace and simplify things with Dobbs when they’re humming on offense. To me it just depends on how successful they are and where they’re at with the chains.
Nick: Right. When Steve Spurrier was in Gainesville this was a series where there were a lot of verbal barbs traded back and forth. In the PC world that we live in today we don’t get that as much. The players are really coached up about what to say and how to handle the media, but I guess we did get a little jab from a sophomore cornerback in Quincy Wilson, who on Monday said, “They,” meaning the Vols, “haven’t beaten us in 10 years, and we’re looking forward to keeping that going.” I know that Jalen Reeves-Maybin said that they play in Neyland Stadium, that’s a top tier stadium. They’re not concerned about the crowd noise. Do you see some more verbiage going back and forth then we have maybe in previous years among the players?
Vince: No. Nick, I think that’s pillow soft right there. Both of those guys, I don’t think there’s anything to get worked up, riled up about. If fans aren’t even getting worked up about those kind of barbs I don’t think the players are. Now, of course coaches are going to do it. Butch Jones supposedly he used the Bob Stoops ripping of the SEC as motivation to his players. So maybe they’ll use that for their players privately, but really there hasn’t been much discussion on that. You said it. They’re so coached up. I don’t think that’s going to be a big factor. The most noteworthy of these exchanges between the two schools is the Florida Twitter account trolling Tennessee with the map of what color to wear to the game.
Nick: I thought that was very clever on their part.
Vince: It was very funny. Now, they could have taken it another level and actually checkerboard Florida field. They could have done that, but they decided to go all blue.
Nick: The outrage that they would receive from the fan base for checkerboarding anything, even if an assistant on the sideline had an actual checkerboard on his person he would be outlawed in Gainesville. Gator fans do not want any part of a checkerboard, especially this week.
Vince: That would be an extensive troll.
Andrew: That would be. Vince, I know we’re taking a ton of your time. This is the kind of last thing I have. Nick will have more, I’m sure. Going into the game, who is the pressure on more? From a Florida standpoint, I don’t want to say they’re loose, but I feel like they know the task at hand. You and I talked about this before at Media Days, it’s a big swing game for both of these teams. They can go one way or the other. Is the pressure more on Butch Jones right now than it is for anybody?
Vince: Absolutely. A little bit of the factor of that is the fact that Jim McElwain is only three games, this will be his fourth game into his coaching career at Florida, so he’s still got some of that honeymoon period. Now if they lose to Tennessee, the streak is snapped, there’s going to be some people upset. You’re going to have people jumping off.
Nick: You know what we’ll hear? Even Will Muschamp didn’t lose to Tennessee. That’ll be the line.
Vince: Yeah. That’s not good, but, no, with what’s at stake for Tennessee and Butch Jones, Butch Jones is not going to get fired if he loses to Florida, but it’ll be 0-3, and we will get wall to wall calls on all of our shows, a full bank of calls all week long until they beat someone significant that Butch Jones isn’t SEC caliber. He needs to take his phrases and go back to Cincinnati. We’re going to get that level of hatred.
There’s already people that question him because the way the Florida game went down last year and how conservative they were. The way they handled that field goal attempt on 4th and inches and going for the field goal instead of punching a touchdown. The conservative way they’ve called plays the rest of that game and not trying to put Oklahoma away. They question him in a lot of different ways as it is. If they lose this game then it is on next week. I don’t know if Butch Jones fully realizes the level of freak out that’s going to happen in this town. He was pretty sensitive about it last year when they lost to Florida. He was saying on the SEC teleconference, after loses you really find out who your true friends are. He’s listening to all that. He knows what the media writes and is talking about, and so if that’s the case he’s going to hear a lot of things he doesn’t want to hear if they lose to Florida.
I think absolutely in terms of coaches the pressure is much more on Butch Jones. Flip side, if he wins, Tennessee fans are feeling great, and it doesn’t even matter how. Stop once, doesn’t matter. They can win 10-9 like last year. Get the W. It’s a results business. He’s not gotten the results he needs. They’ll be right there for the SEC east in fan’s minds if they win. That’s a huge extreme, two different ends of the spectrum there that’s on the line for Butch Jones.
Andrew: I even think it’s a recruiting standpoint for Butch, because I think Butch has kind of done what McElwain’s doing right now, and that is selling that the program is on the up rise. Constant loses to big game schools hurt that message.
Vince: Probably so, but that’s the one thing, that’s the biggest thing he has to hang his hat on is how well he’s recruited. The question is what do you do when you got them? Can you develop them? Can you use them? Can you keep them in your program? They’ve had a lot of guys that he’s brought in leave the program. He trotted out some stats this week to show you the turnover they’ve had on their roster. They’re only 29 guys that have ever flown for an SEC road game on their roster, on their travel roster headed to Florida. There’s only 12 guys, 12 players, that were there two years ago the last time Tennessee played at Florida. That’s how much the roster has turned over under Butch Jones, and some of them have been guys that he’s recruited as well, some good players too, not just the three stars that were fringe players.
This team, it’s younger, it’s more athletic, it’s more SEC caliber, but it’s still his team, and fans want him to deliver now, especially the way the SEC East right now is with only Georgia that you feel like you have full confidence in. I don’t know that the recruiting, he’s such a good recruiter, really good recruiting staff. I don’t know that that takes a hit more so than the actual job status in the minds of the fan base. Not UT, but in the minds of the fan base.
Nick: Florida fans would love to send a coach out. I’m sure the wear blue, Florida is trying to get fans to wear blue. They didn’t want to call it a blue out, I don’t know why. Maybe a blowout. Tennessee’s goal will be to make Florida fans feel black and blue on Saturday. CBS has the game, 3:30. Vince, is it too early in the week, or can we get a prediction from you?
Vince: I don’t have a score yet, so maybe I’ll hold off on that, but I’m picking Florida, and I picked Tennessee, going into the year I had them at 8-4. I had them beating Oklahoma at home in a close game. I had them losing at Florida in a close game. In the off season my thought process on that was I think Tennessee is a better team, but between home field advantage and the streak I got to see it before I pick it. I looked at it that way when everyone and their mother was picking Kentucky to beat Florida last week.
Nick: That’s the same thing I said last week. I liked Kentucky, thought it was going to be a close game, but I can’t pick against 28 years of futility.
Vince: Right. Be the one to pick a two game winning streak on the other end if you want, but no. I’ve got to see it. I think Tennessee, I’ve said this all week on my show. Tennessee should win and will win are two different things. Now for a lot of fans they are the same thing, and the answer is the same. Should win and will win. I think those are two different things in this situation. I think Tennessee should win. I think that Tennessee is the better team, and where they are in terms of their progress moving forward I still think, even though they haven’t been quite what they were supposed to be in the off season, it’s still very talented. I think they should win, but I’m not picking them to win. I’m picking Florida.
Andrew: Okay, Vince, again, we’re friends.
Nick: Brace yourself, Vince. Here comes his rant.
Andrew: We’re friends, buddy. We’re friends, but you, as a Tennessee Vol just picked the Gators. I’m sorry, Tennessee fans, but one of your own just went against you guys. One of your own just went against you guys.
Vince: They know I’m going to call it like I see it. I picked them to beat Oklahoma, and they didn’t. They should have. They were right there.
Andrew: I’m with you. This is kind of where I was going a little bit. Florida has won the last two years, three years ugly fashion. I think it’s going to be ugly. I think it’s going to be a bloody, 10-9, 12-10 kind of football game. I do think Florida wins in a 12-10, 12-9 football game, but I do appreciate your honesty, because we don’t like Tennessee around this place.
Vince: That is not shocking, to be honest with you. I’ll say one other thing in terms of a key in this game, guys. You guys asked me about Josh Dobbs earlier. I think Joshua Dobbs, for Tennessee to win this game, Joshua Dobbs needs to be a star. He needs to put this team on his back, dual threat, accurate with the passing game, going down the field. He needs to play like he did in their rallying road win at South Carolina last year when really he caught the nation’s attention with that game. He was spectacular. He needs to play like that, I think, for Tennessee to win this game. Whether he’s up to it or not, we’ll find out. We haven’t seen enough of these big game, big road games for him, especially as the guy. He’s never had more talent around him, but that’s I think a must for Tennessee to win.
Special teams is going to be big too. Tennessee’s return game. Evan Berry leading kickoff return in the country, 45 a clip, something like that. Then two really good punt returners in Cam Sutton and Alvin Kamara as well. The return game, normally you would think it to be, because Florida’s special teams are always so good, you would think those to be the advantage of Florida. I think the return game is an advantage for Tennessee, and Tennessee’s punter, Trevor Daniel, has been really good, a lot more distance than what you guys have seen at Florida.
Nick: Yeah. I would say with that Florida’s kick return game has been abysmal. They have a kicker who can kick it out of the end zone through the uprights on every kickoff, and they do that for the most part. When they decide not to they’re averaging giving up more than 40 yards a return. So I don’t know if you’ll see Austin Hardin kick one short this week with Berry back there. I definitely would give the advantage to special teams, also with Hardin missing his last three field goals, all inside of 40 yards. Definitely would give the special teams advantage to Tennessee.
Andrew: Yeah. Here’s my thing with the coaching. You said the thing about Butch, and I think what a lot of people haven’t really paid attention to is this is McElwain’s first game to really put his stamp on the program going forward. He needs this game from a standpoint of he keeps preaching, I want to take the Swamp back. This is his first game to do that. So there is pressure on McElwain, 100% on that. I’m like you, I want Butch to prove to me he can win a big game. I’ve said it before. Butch Jones is a great recruiter, hasn’t sold me as a coach yet.
Vince: The questions, and I think a lot of us felt this way going into the year, is that Butch Jones had proven himself as a marketer of the program, as a recruiter, someone that’s connected with the former players in a tremendous way, a guy that could excite the fan base. They’ve generated money. The reserve fund was a disaster. It was the worst in the league, and now because of all of the excitement, maybe the move to Nike has certainly helped as well. Tennessee has improved from a financial standpoint as well from the mess of a couple years ago. I think all those things can be attributed to Butch Jones and the excitement he’s generated, considering he has the same record as Derrick Dooley through 27 games.
Nick: That is shocking.
Andrew: Thanks for adding more fuel to my fire, because that will be used.
Vince: The thing is, Andrew, I don’t think it means the same thing. It don’t think it’s the same thing. I think the mess that Butch Jones took over was much worse than what Derrick Dooley had to work with. I don’t think it’s the same thing, plus the SEC record I think is one game better for Butch. The points for, points against, amazingly it’s almost identical. It’s like a lose every game by 19 points per game against ranked opponents. Yeah, there’s some ugly stats that are still out there, but the question was how good of a game day, Xs and Os coach is Butch Jones? He’s going to have those critical situations this year to prove himself that he can get it done in those situations.
This year it was the Oklahoma game. It’s a fail there, and now here’s the opportunity, and you could cross off a lot of things, a lot of questions, if they win this game. Then if they win it impressively then it’s going way the other way on how great he is, and then he is being stamped as a great coach immediately. That goes back to the fan base being so volatile. There’s so much on the line and so much to be proven and decided and judged on for Butch Jones in this game. I don’t know if the country realizes it yet, but this area certainly does.
Andrew: It’s a very close matchup, and I think that a lot of people have written this game off to maybe not be a good game, but I think that this turns out to be a really good game.
Nick: I don’t think this is going to be a good game at all. This is, to me, has sloppy football written all over it. Kind of like what we saw last week against Kentucky.
Vince: I don’t think it’s going to be that ugly. I think Tennessee’s better than Kentucky, so I think Florida will play better, and I think Tennessee will play better. I think we’ll have some splash plays in this game, and I think it will be, it’s not going to be Ole Miss vs. Alabama or anything like that with fireworks and big plays, but I don’t know that it will be 9-6, 10-9, quite like that. I think there will be a few more plays and some mistakes made in the game that will make it a little bit more exciting, but it’ll be close I think, for sure.
Andrew: Definitely. Vince, we appreciate you coming on so much. You’re a good friend of ours, and we really appreciate it. We hope to have some good Twitter conversations on Saturday.
Vince: I’ll be on it. I’m not making the trip, unfortunately, so I won’t get to see you guys, but looking forward to the banter, and appreciate you guys having me.
Andrew: Absolutely. Thanks for coming on, Vince.
Vince: All right, guys, thanks.
Andrew: Nick, the man spoke, and the man picked the Gators to beat the Vols.
Nick: It’s kind of like he said, Vince covers the team, but not necessarily a fan. He’s going to call it like he sees it, and he sees a Florida win.
Andrew: You know what, I like it, because I like that he gave me some fire power. Same record as Derrick Dooley? Derrick Dooley’s garbage. The man’s coaching at where? Dallas now? Something like that. Here’s the thing, to wrap this up, this is a long podcast I know. Sorry we went over so long with this, guys. To wrap it up a little bit, Nick, couple key points stand out to me. He did agree with us on stopping the offense as well. With Butch, the jury’s still out on Butch Jones, and I think it’ll be a matchup of who’s the better coach on Saturday. That very well could win the ballgame.
Nick: Yeah. We’ve seen Butch be conservative, definitely went conservative, it was like a turtle seeing a person walking near it and just immediately into their shell last year when Tennessee played Florida. This year Jim McElwain through three games has already gone for it on 4th down five times. It surprised me, because I was trying to compare that to last year. Florida went for it six times on 4th down in their first three games last year. That number dwindled down as you get into the harder teams in the SEC, but I think as an offensive coach McElwain isn’t afraid to take those chances, as you’ve seen Butch Jones get conservative. I think McElwain is not going to be afraid to go for it on 4th downs, mix up the play calling some. Interesting to see. My question for McElwain is, you said it before, Vince agreed, this is his biggest game. This is his first marquee game as the head coach of Florida. Does he still take those chances when the stakes are higher?
Andrew: Hell yeah. Go for it. Here’s my thing. Jim, show America who you are. Show America that you’re a good football coach. If it means you running 50 reverses to win the ballgame, win the ballgame. I don’t care if it’s 12-9, 12-10. Florida fans don’t care if it’s 12-10, 12-9. All they care about is 11 games in a row against Tennessee and winning the ballgame. They do not care about the score whatsoever. Just win the game.
Nick: That’s one of these games. Maybe into the next year, if Florida has a good schedule, a good turnout this year, you might start getting some people complaining about style points, but with the roster that you were left from the previous coaching staff, just win. No one’s worrying right now about style points. Just win football games, and don’t lose to Tennessee, because what? Will Muschamp never lost to Tennessee.
Andrew: Why? Because Andrew cannot lose this game. Lose next week to Ole Miss. Don’t lose this week, guys. Please, guys.
Nick: Podcast listeners will not be happy with me next week when we’re previewing that game.
Andrew: Please. Nick, we had a long podcast here. Our good friend Vince came on again. We appreciate him.
Nick: Lot of good stuff. Lot of good stuff packed in there. I had Vince on at GatorCountry.com last year for our Behind Enemy Lines. Glad to have him in his medium. He’s a radio guy, so glad to have him on in his medium for the podcast.
Andrew: And I was nice to him today.
Nick: You were nice, thank you. I think you would have lost your mind if he had picked Tennessee. Glad he did not, so we kept your blood pressure down. We will be back on Friday. That is when we will unleash Andrew’s final pregame rant. He will let Tennessee fans have it. You will hear it, and you will hear our predictions on Friday as well. As always, there is a ton of new content, including former Florida Gator Fee Bartley returning to Gator Country as a writer. He’ll be featured with us this week. We also have an interview with James Bates, who was having a little fun with Tennessee fans on Twitter on Monday.
Andrew: He and I are now friends, by the way.
Nick: That should be good. Ton of great stuff on GatorCountry.com this week. Always, if you’re not subscribed give it a try. Andrew, sign us out.
Andrew: Boomer Sooner, guys. Take care. Say your words, Nicholas.
Nick: Stay classy, Gator Country.
Andrew: Boomer Sooner, one more time for the road