"We actually grew up together," Justin Trattou said. "He lived on the same street as me. We grew up playing football, basketball and baseball together. He actually was my high school quarterback, but he's definitely going to be the enemy Saturday."
Trattou was even close with Matt Simms' father, NFL legend Phil, who coached his son and Trattou when they were little. Simms was their little league baseball coach, even leading the team to the "second or third round" of the Little League World Series, sending them to Philadelphia where they were eliminated.
"He was by far the best baseball coach I ever had," Trattou said of the elder Simms. "He made the game fun."
Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney singled out Trattou for giving the team the inside scoop on the quarterback they will face Saturday. Trattou caught passes in street football from Simms when they were young, and he remembers the qualities of a good quarterback that Simms showed even then.
"Matt's a real talented quarterback," Trattou said. "I used to catch from him, and he has a great arm. He can throw with the best of them."
Simms isn't the focal point of the Tennessee offense, though. Even with new head coach Derek Dooley, they are a power running football team, as they have been for what seems like forever.
Regardless of who is the head coach, when the Gators take on Tennessee, they know the key will be stopping the run. Since Urban Meyer took over at Florida in 2005, the Gators have allowed only 61 rushing yards per game to the Volunteers.
"They're a smash mouth, power football team," Trattou said. "We pride ourselves on stopping the run. It's a big week for us."
Tennessee running back Tauren Poole rushed for only 85 yards last season, fourth best on the team, because of the production from senior Montario Hardesty.
Poole hasn't allowed any drop off. Through two games, Poole leads the SEC by averaging 136 rushing yards per game. He ran for 162 yards last week against Oregon.
"He's a really explosive guy," Trattou said. "He was breaking tackles and looks like a real hungry running back. This week in practice, we'll focus on swarming to the ball and gang tackling."
This season has allowed Trattou to focus on one position. Coach McCarney was pleased with the pressure that Florida has generated on the quarterback, even though they have only recorded three sacks. Trattou has played a part in pressuring the quarterback because he doesn't have to spend practice time at defensive tackle.
"It's the way I approach the week," Trattou said. "I used to play three different positions. Now it's just one and easier than the past. It's getting back into the hang of it.
"I used to play in the middle against some big guard-center combos, but nothing much at end."
Trattou will spend time this week with the young players who are making their first trip to Knoxville, and many of them making their first road trip with the team. The defense has it easier because the crowd will be quiet when Tennessee has the ball, but the senior wants to make sure no one becomes overwhelmed in the environment.
"They've got to be ready to play good defense," Trattou said of the young players. "Any road game, the first thing the coaches always tell us is to play good defense. That's what we pride ourselves on."
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Trattou with Ties to Vols' QB
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