"The pass rush emphasis has been a real big deal, especially after the last game with us not getting any sacks," Lerentee McCray said. "It's mostly about our get offs. It's going to be a real big emphasis by our coaches this week in practice."
The Tennessee defense has allowed three sacks this season. Saturday will provide a better opportunity to evaluate the Florida pass rush. FAU and UAB ran short routes in their offense and got the ball out of the quarterback's hands in a hurry. Tennessee is more of a traditional drop-back offense, as Tyler Bray has thrown for 698 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions through the first two games.
The Gators have only recorded two sacks in the first two games, but their boost will come from someone who didn't see the field in the first two weeks. Defensive end Sharrif Floyd returns on Saturday after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA for the first two games of the season.
"Getting Sharrif Floyd back, it does a lot for our team," McCray said. "It's motivation to bring our brother along and getting guys back in the rotation so we can have fresh bodies. It gives us a real big boost going into an SEC game."
It wasn't easy for Floyd to sit on the sidelines and watch his teammates start the season without him, but he didn't have a choice. His coaches and teammates stood behind him throughout the process, and McCray was impressed with the maturity Floyd showed through the situation.
"He held up very well. I didn't see him be down on himself that much," McCray said. "He just watched the game from the sidelines and gave us tips that we can do better. He just broke down the opponent from the sideline and told us what they were doing."
Floyd will still have the ability to slide inside to defensive tackle in pass rush situations, but he is expected to start the game at defensive end. He is over 280 pounds and brings a different look from some of the lighter pass rushers the Gators have had in recent seasons.
"Sharrif brings size, speed and athleticism," McCray said. "He brings a lot to that position that you can't normally get from a guy my size or my stature. He's a big guy who is fast, quick and powerful. He can play end or tackle, so he brings a lot to the position."
The Tennessee offense poses a different look than what Florida saw in the first two weeks. Bray has two dominant targets, Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers, to throw to and running back Tauren Poole led the SEC in 100+ yard rushing games last season.
"The first time I watched them was just highlights from their game on Saturday," McCray said. "From what I saw, they're a good team and they put up a lot of points. We're going to have our hands full."
For the secondary to play well, Matt Elam has to lead. With the possibility of starting freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson and freshman safety Pop Saunders to open conference play, Elam brings a veteran presence to the secondary that it desperately needs.
"Matt Elam has taken his role very well," McCray said. "He's quiet and leads by example in the secondary. He talks to guys and gets them going, but he's taken his role as the quiet guy who leads by example."