Tennessee Preview

Another season, another weather-impacted game.  Hurricane Irma caused the cancellation of Florida’s game against Northern Colorado, and now the Gators have lost a much-needed week of game prep and live action to work out the myriad problems on offense before the SEC opener against Tennessee.  Between this and the ongoing suspensions of 9 players for their role in the credit scam, Coach Mac can’t seem to catch a break.  From what I’m hearing, the investigation of those players is a criminal one, and they may not be back for weeks.  A literal and figurative black cloud still follows the Florida program.

The spotlight continues to remain on the Gator offense.  Assuming Antonio Callaway and Jordan Scarlett are still unavailable due to suspension, Coach Mac has to make sure to spread the ball around to the rest of the playmakers.  If that means taking over play calling duties from Doug Nussmeier, then by all means do it.  Nuss isn’t getting it done, and will move upstairs to the coaches box……perhaps the first step in taking him completely out of the loop.  I really don’t think the offense needs to resort to anything special as far as the scheme goes – just play physical and fast.  The O-Line did not play well in the opener, and still has something to prove.  Establishing an effective running game will set everything else up for Franks and the WRs.  Coach Davis – do something to improve the interior OL play, especially at guard. Start Brett Heggie at a minimum, as Tyler Jordan and Fred Johnson didn’t get it done in game 1.  For whomever is calling the plays – please use the RBs in the passing game (swing passes/screens) to take pressure off of both Franks and the OL; throw some passes between the hashmarks – it’s allowed; and get the ball into the hands of Kedarious Toney and Dre Massey in space to make plays. Tennessee’s defense is built on funneling plays to their LBs, each of whom is averaging over 10 tackles per game.  If Florida can take advantage of it’s speed on the perimeter and the O-Line can get to the second level, the offense will have finally have success.

The Gator defense will be healthy, and has to take it to the Volunteer offense from the start.  Blitzes, stunts, new looks – Coach Shannon has to show more aggressiveness in his schemes and not try to protect the young LBs and DBs.  The Florida D-Line should be able to control the LOS – it’s up to the back seven to make plays.  Coach Shannon and Coach Rumph – get on the asses of the DEs and teach them to play their assignments and rush lanes…..no more conversions of 3rd-and-10+ yards with freakin’ draw plays.  Tennessee has mostly new faces on offense.  QB in Quinten Dormady has looked OK so far, but has not faced a good defense yet and is still an unknown quantity.  RB John Kelly does look like a good player, and is the workhorse.  WR Marquez Callaway is a big play threat both as a receiver and on jet sweeps.  The Gator defense will focus on those three and force others to emerge.  I’m excited about Marco Wilson and CJ Henderson – they are going to be excellent CBs. I’m hoping to see Brad Stewart in an expanded role at safety and Shawn Davis develop – if Chauncey Gardner and/or Nick Washington aren’t on the field, these guys have to step up.  Get after the Tennessee offense – apply pressure, hit some people, and challenge them to make plays.

There is massive pressure on the entire staff and team to win this week.  The bad taste of the Michigan performance hasn’t been washed away, and an 0-2 start would cripple any expectations for this season as well as stop the great recruiting momentum gained over the summer.  No way around it – losing the experience of playing the N. Colorado game hurts the development of Franks and took away the chance to get a lot of young players more experience.  Coach Mac is giving indications that things will change for the offense, which is welcome.  I’m hoping the team doesn’t press too much and make dumb mistakes that prove costly.  The Gators match up as a better team on paper, but must prove it on the field – here’s hoping some much-needed relief comes for Gator Nation.

Prediction:  Florida 27      Tennessee 20

Irma 1          Florida 0