While Gator fans are no doubt worried about their offense for Saturday’s game against Tennessee, just remember that the Vols fans are even more worried about theirs.
Just four offensive returnees and a quarterback who didn’t take a snap a year ago – plus a number of off-field incidents over the summer and the lingering image of Lane Kiffin’s footprints – has made Tennessee Team Turmoil.
Yet this would be the perfect spot for Derek Dooley to get his signature win with for his struggling program and so it becomes a dangerous game for Urban Meyer.
There are some things that need fixing for the Gators on both sides of the ball. But I’ll just deal with the defense.
I do think they are getting better each week all the way around.
Looking back at last week, B. J. Daniels and South Florida came with normal looks in that impressive 96-yard drive to open the game. They were doing some double teams on the guards and tackles and it was a bit of a wakeup call for the linebackers and the Gator defense. But the UF coaches adjusted and that was pretty much all USF had as the Gators’ talent and depth took over.
Ahmad Black’s interception just before the half was a momentum breaker for the Bulls, although I wondered why Daniels was throwing the ball around with a 7-0 lead almost into the half.
After that, the Florida defense came back with a solid performance in the second half, flying around on big plays, with Black and Janoris Jenkins leading the way for yet another four-interception game for the defense of Teryl Austin and Chuck Heater.
Jeff Demps got loose and the offense began to crank it up as the Gators pulled away.
Hopefully for Coach Meyer, it won’t come down to that on Saturday and Florida will get off to a little better first half start.
The Gator defense will need to put the clamps on Matt Simms, son of Phil Simms, who also coached his neighbor kid Justin Trattou on his Franklin Lakes, N. J. youth baseball team and played a little quarterback himself for the Giants.
More importantly, they’ve got to stop running back Tauren Poole, who rolled up 143 yards in the loss to Oregon. That’s where the play of the front seven is going to be so critical, as well as the cat-and-mouse game with Black in and out of the eight-man box.
I wouldn’t mind seeing Austin and Heater run-blitz the Vols and maybe use some slants in the line, getting everybody moving in the right direction up front and to the straight backside of the linebacker. Maybe just a little bit more mixing and matching. Create congestion. Play big.
That’s the way they can cause confusion and take advantage of Tennessee’s inexperienced offense.
I think having Will Hill back might also free up Black to freelance more with Hill as the one-high safety. But you can’t just assume that because Will is back they’ll play better. In fact, some teams tend to play harder when they’re missing a key player—something Gator fans are hoping will impact their team with the loss of Chris Rainey.
Coach Derek Dooley likes to establish the run with Poole and then turn Simms loose with the deep ball, which no doubt will be his strategy Saturday as well.
Dan McCarney has says he plans to use the same game plan with his 10-12 man rotation and is hoping he can get more playing time out of Brandon Antwine, Terron Sanders and Lawrence Marsh in the middle of the D-Line.
* * *
I remember as a true freshman going to Knoxville when Bill Battle was the coach and Phil Fulmer was a graduate assistant. Neyland Stadium was big even back then in the mid-seventies, though not nearly as big as today.
Even though they’ve got about 17,000 more seats than we do, it’s nothing like “The Swamp,” so don’t even try to compare them. I think Gator fans are far better and when they go to represent their team in Tennessee they take it very seriously. They have fun, but they make a lot of noise in behalf of their team.
It’s a special rivalry and time for this team to get ready for its first road trip and first SEC game. And Johnny (Brantley’s) first road start as the Gator quarterback, so it’s pretty exciting for our family.
There are so many ties between the two programs, including the fact that three of UF’s coaches have come from Tennessee, starting back with Bob Woodruff, then Ray Graves, who played for the Vols.
Woodruff went back to UT as athletic director where he hired former Gator quarterback Doug Dickey as coach. Dickey came back to Gainesville just before I started playing for the Gators and coached my first three years.
No coach has dominated Tennessee in modern history, however, like Urban Meyer.
Five straight wins by Urban is sweet, but at the same time his players have got to remember this is the start of the SEC Tournament to see which teams get to Atlanta.
All that plus Rocky Top, the checkerboard end zone and 107,000 – it’s what SEC football is all about. Makes you want to strap it on and go play.
GAME 3: FLORIDA AT TENNESSEE
(Sept. 18, Knoxville, Tenn., 3:30 p.m., CBS)
1. Martin Chronicles: Urban Meyer says “It’s SEC time” and so it’s time for his young Gators to grow up in a hurry, starting Saturday on Rocky Top. Click below:
2. Draining Poole: Florida should find out Saturday how good its defensive front is when the Gators encounter Tennessee running back Tauren Poole. Click below:
3. Defending his program: In the wake of the arrest of Chris Rainey, Urban Meyer met with the media Thursday and addressed the perception that his program is out of control. Click below:
4. First road start: Quarterback John Brantley has played before on the road for the Florida Gators. Saturday he gets his first start. Click below:
5. Seeing the Light: Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert has come a long way as a player and even longer as a person. Click below:
6. The Gator Country.com Top 25: The poll for the third week of the college football season. Click below:
1. The Final Words: Florida head coach Urban Meyer addresses questions about his program, Chris Rainey’s suspension, the players who will replace him and the team’s young recruiting corps. Jesse Walker’s video. Click below:
ANALYSIS / COMMENTARY
1. The Matchups: Our Dugan Arnett beaks down the Tennessee Volunteers position-by-position for their battle with Florida Saturday on Rocky Top. Click below:
2. For the Defense: There’s certainly going to be congestion around 105,000-plus-seats Neyland Stadium Saturday, but Gator great Scot Brantley feels Florida needs to create some congestion to stop Tauren Poole and Co. of Tennessee. Click below:
3. On the Offense: Former Florida All-American Reidel Anthony likes the development he sees in the Gators’ offense, especially in the offensive backfield now that the offensive line is intact. Click below:
1. See and hear: Telecast and broadcast information for Saturday’s game. Click below:
2. Florida: Updated schedule, depth chart, roster and statistics for Tennessee game. Click below:
3. Tennessee: Updated schedule, depth chart, roster and statistics for Florida game. Click below:
4. Week 3: Who the schools in the Gator Country.com Top 25 are playing and the rest of the games this week involving all FBS teams and selected FCS and Florida college games. Click below:
1. Hometown kicks: Dallas Stubbs of Gainesville High School wouldn’t mind kicking for his hometown Florida Gators. John Patton’s story leads off a roundup of games around the Sunshine State and how select prospects from the Class of 2011 fared. Click below: