D-Line Focused on Vols' Ground Game

Heading into the Tennessee game, the mindset for the Florida defense is no different than it has been in recent years. The Gators must stop the run to leave Knoxville with a win. The Volunteers don't try to trick anyone with their offensive scheme. They want to run the football and control the clock.

"There's no doubt they're going to try and pound the ball against us, especially since we gave up some rushing yards last week," Florida defensive lineman Duke Lemmens said. "They have a very good running back, as good as I've seen."

Tauren Poole is their starting running back, and he hasn't been stopped through two games this season. The junior leads the SEC by averaging 136 rushing yards per game, including a 162-yard performance last weekend against Oregon.

He doesn't have elite speed, but Poole runs through tacklers and moves the pile. The Florida defense struggled with missed tackles against USF, and they spent the week of practice focusing on wrapping up the ball carrier and gang tackling.

"This guy can break tackles," Lemmens said. "Oregon is a great defense, and he was making some of them look mediocre."

USF rushed for 244 yards last weekend against the Florida defense. The quarterback position produced 121 of the yards, as B.J. Daniels used quarterback draw and option plays to his advantage. Sometimes Daniels would tuck the ball on passing plays and scramble for big gains.

That isn't something the Florida defense will be facing this weekend. Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms is a pro-style quarterback, which will allow the Florida defense to focus more on defending the pass.

Just because the Gators won't face a running quarterback this weekend doesn't mean they aren't hearing about the high number of rushing yards they allowed last weekend.

"They've got some big boys up front," Florida defensive tackle Terron Sanders said of Tennessee. "It's going to be a tough one for us. We gave up way too many yards last week, so that's one of the main things we're focusing on this week."

The Gators experienced slow starts in their first two games, but they won't have the luxury of an easy bounce back in Saturday's conference opener. Poole rushed for 111 yards in the first quarter against Oregon. If the Gators allow him to get the rushing game going early, it could be hard to stop it.

"Conference play is a big deal," Sanders said. "We can't come out playing like we did in the first two games. We know we can stop the run."

The potential of a slow start is increased with all the young players Florida will travel this weekend. The routine head coach Urban Meyer put in place for road games went smoothly over the past few seasons with veteran teams, but the worry is that young players won't catch on right away.

Neyland Stadium will be raucous as always when the Gators come to town. It's an environment that any freshman could feel overwhelmed in, but the veterans on the team are working to prepare them.

"We've got young guys, and I'm sure some of them might have big eyes," Lemmens said. "We've been working hard to get them ready."

The environments of SEC road stadiums played a key role in why Lemmens decided to leave California and play his college football in the south. He saw a few of the stadiums during recruiting visits, but it's the passion that goes along with football that made him want to leave home.

"The best fans in the country are in our conference," Lemmens said. "The louder they cheer, the more pumped up we get. That's why I came here, to be a part of the southern football culture. If we're going to work this hard, it's fun to play in front of a packed audience."

The focus in the Florida football facility has also been more intense this week. The coaches have added the Volunteer's "T" to the urinals in the football offices, among other adjustments to focus the players on what is at stake.

"Everybody loves rivalry games," Sanders said. "The energy is a little higher, and the focus is a little higher. You can tell everybody is ready to go."
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