Gators preparing for rival Tennessee

Florida head coach Will Muschamp is challenging his team to avoid the history. The Gators are riding an eight-game wining streak against Tennessee, and the Volunteers head to Gainesville this weekend off a 45-point thumping from Oregon. Tennessee still provides a challenge for a Florida team that hasn't been able to take advantage of its opportunities on offense.

The hype around the Florida-Tennessee rivalry seems to have died in recent years. The eight-game winning streak has taken some of the juice from the rivalry, but both teams are off to a lackluster start this year. Since the teams started playing annually in 1990, this is only the second time they will face each other with both teams already having a loss.

That doesn't diminish what's at stake in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

"It's still a huge rivalry," Florida head coach Will Muschamp said. "It's a very important game at the University of Florida. There's no question because of the promise both schools had in the '90s, it was a leadoff game for CBS it seemed like every year. There's no question that it's got a great, great history."

The offensive line is the best unit on the Tennessee roster with 139 starts on the unit. The Volunteers will start four seniors and one junior -- left tackle Antonio Richardson. There are questions in the passing game, but the Tennessee offensive line is a unit that has Florida's attention.

"This will be the best offensive line we will face this year," Muschamp said. "Our guys felt that way last year after we played them.

The scheme is similar to what Butch Jones did at Cincinnati and one that the Florida coaches said they have plenty of respect for. The Volunteers want to use tempo to keep the defense off balance.

"They were very successful running their system at Cincinnati," Muschamp said. "They've been very successful doing what they do. It takes that time to install offensively, schematically, philosophically what you want to do and who you want to be. And that's what they're going through right now."

The Volunteers bring eight starters back on defense, and Muschamp noted that it looks like they've simplified some of the things they do on the defensive side of the ball. They have some experience, especially in the front seven.

"They've got guys that have played a lot," Muschamp said. "(Daniel) McCullers inside is a hard guy to move. Corey Miller on the edge, Jordan Williams -- those are all guys that can rush on the edge. A.J. Johnson is a guy that's played a lot of football. Curt Maggitt's been injured, but we expect him to be back. They've got a lot of guys who have played a lot of football."

Oregon attacked the edges of the Tennessee defense while putting up 687 total yards of offense -- 471 through the air and 216 on the ground. Asked what his team can take from a blowout loss for Tennessee, Muschamp downplayed the importance of the game.

"We just need to take care of Florida, and we'll get Tennessee's best effort," Muschamp said. "Oregon has got a good football team. We just need to take care of Florida and start the SEC schedule. Their tempo and momentum will be a little different walking in here -- I can assure you of that."

HARGREAVES MOVING UP: Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves has been a staple in the Florida secondary early this year, and that won't be changing anytime soon. Jaylen Watkins has moved from cornerback to safety and will start against Tennessee, pushing Hargreaves into the backup spot for cornerback positions.

The athleticism is easy to see, but it's his work ethic off the field that has helped him make an impact with two interceptions in his first two career games. It's similar to what Muschamp saw out of Marcus Roberson during his freshman season.

"He's really smart," Muschamp said of Hargreaves. "He's a guy that really works at the game. He comes in and watches a lot of tape. There's a reason why he's playing well. God's blessed him with a lot of athleticism, but he works at the mental side of the game.

"(A lot of young players) think with their athleticism, they're just gonna beat the opponent because they've always been better. And that's not how he has approached it. He's come in and worked extremely hard."

When Hargreaves was being recruited, he never asked the coaches a question about the depth chart. Cornerback is the position that should be tough to break onto the field as a freshman for the Gators this year because of the depth, but the coaches told him he would be on the field if he earned it. Through two games this year, he has already earned a role and allowed a senior defensive back to move to safety.

Muschamp said recruits ask about the depth chart "more than you would think," but Hargreaves wasn't one that did. He's now two games into an impressive freshman season.

"We'll play freshmen when they're ready," Muschamp said. And this guy's ready."


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