Q. Was anyone calling for Tennessee to cancel this season's game at Oregon before it was set in stone? Seems like a bad scheduling mistake for a rebuilding program.
Riley Blevins: "There was talk about opting out of the Oregon game, but that was solely amongst fans. Butch Jones and administrators made it clear that the game was set in stone."
Q. What is the status of DE Maurice Couch? How important is he to the Volunteer defense? What changes must the Vol defense make to cover his absence, if he is unavailable? How much did his absence in the Oregon game impact the outcome?
Blevins: "Maurice Couch will not play against Florida. I would be very surprised if he played another snap at Tennessee. Couch wears jersey No. 44. Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Allan Carson wore the number in practice this week. Couch was never a "standout" per say on the defensive line, but the Vols are extremely thin up front. His absence obviously does not help. True freshman Jason Carr, Corey Vereen and redshirt freshman Danny O'Brien will fill in. The Vols also may shift veteran defensive ends inside to bolster experience against Florida. Couch not playing didn't impact the outcome vs. Oregon too greatly. The score would have been the same with or without him. However, an extra body when mass substituting against the Ducks would have helped for sure. Interesting note: Oregon fans were chanting, 'We want Bama!'"
Q. After guys like Lane Kiffin and Bruce Pearl, things seem quiet in UT coaching ranks. Have fans adjusted to a lower profile coach with lowered expectations for a return to relevance?
Blevins: "Expectation have not been lowered by any means. Fans were originally upset with the Jones hire, as they wanted names like Charlie Strong, Jon Gruden and Mike Gundy. That's changed in a hurry. Jones is a public relations machine. He speaks all across the state for various reasons. He holds open practices and what not. In that way, he is the exact opposite of ex-head coach Derek Dooley. The energy change has generated excitement, and some unrealistic goals and expectations for this season. But the Vols recruiting class is surprisingly solid. The consensus around Knoxville is that Jones is the guy to head the "return" to relevance."
Q. Do you feel, the product that was left on the field in oregon, is not what we will see in Gainesville?
Blevins: "It's hard to say. I think what the Vols did offensively against Oregon be similar to their production in Gainesville – if Justin Worley starts. Tennessee coaches said yesterday that a starting quarterback would not be named until Saturday. Worley is a pocket passer. The other three candidates are scramblers. If Worley starts, the Vols will – like at Oregon – struggle throwing the ball and rely on the run. Tennessee's receivers are very inexperienced. From that standout point, the passing game will be similar regardless of the quarterback."
Q. How does Tennessee's offensive line stack up against Florida's pass rush?
Blevins: "Tennessee's undeniable strength this season is it's offensive line. Junior left tackle Antonio "Tiny" Richardson will likely forgo his senior season and be a first day pick in the NFL draft. Ju'Wuan James and Zach Fulton also will play on Sunday's. Center James Stone could be an NFL-guys as well. It's the backbone of this team. Most of the line has been starting since they were freshman. It's a smart, experienced group. They have the talent to play with any defensive front in the nation. The same cannot be said about their support cast, though."
Q. Our rivalry has devolved into a state where I am just glad to watch my team play, hoping for some success offensively - like zero turnovers - and a solid defense/kicking game...isn't sad that the two programs might be the game of the week on CBS but no one outside of our fandoms is interested?
Blevins: "The rivalry is indeed losing a spark outside Tennessee and Florida fans. Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie – who played tailback at Florida from 1998-2001 – spoke extensively this week about the need to restore competition in this rivalry. He went 2-2 in the series. He said the two losses will live with him forever."
Q. How green, or not, is the Vols defensive secondary?
Blevins: "Very, very green. Safety Brian Randolph is the secondary's keystone. True freshman Cameron Sutton starts at corner. He's talented but has huge areas of improvement. A year sitting and learning would do Sutton well, but the Vols don't have that luxury. The Vols have three walk-ons on the secondary's two-deep depth chart. Two of them see serious playing time in nickel and dime packages."
Q. How have injuries hurt the Vols defense? With players like Couch and Maggitt ?
Blevins: "Curt Maggitt will not play Saturday. That's obviously a major loss. Former safety Brent Brewer has been starting in his absence and has done a decent job. I talked about the depth and Couch situations above. The loss of Couch doesn't hurt the Vols as much as losing Trevarris Saulsberry – a Gainseville native. Jones said Saulsberry was playing the best of any defensive lineman before he was injured at Oregon. He's out three to six weeks with an undisclosed knee injury. Three freshmen will be asked to play in place of Saulsberry and Couch. Redshirt junior Greg Clark also will see the field. He has played in four games in his entire career."