FIXING THE DROPS: The Florida passing game ranks fourth in the Southeastern Conference in completion percentage, and there’s plenty of blame to go around. Quarterback Jeff Driskel hasn’t been as accurate as expected in the last two weeks, and the receivers have struggled with drops.
Florida coach Will Muschamp pointed out four drops in the Alabama game that slowed the offense. The bye week allowed Driskel and his receivers to focus on improving their timing, but the drops were also a focus in the extra practices before traveling to Tennessee.
"The drops are the things that stand out,” Kurt Roper said. “We've obviously had a couple of those on third down where we would have had conversions. It's just a point that football is the ultimate team game. You've got to have 11 guys working together to make a play and if you're off just a little bit, sometimes it's going to take you off the field and makes it harder to score points.
“It's truly a team game, and obviously the quarterback gets noticed the most, but it's not just him on a day like that. It's not just him."
POSITIVES FROM GROUND GAME: Florida’s offensive success this season has mostly come on the ground, running behind an experienced offensive line that held up well when D.J. Humphries was out for the last two games. With Humphries returning to take over the left tackle spot, Florida now has added depth off the bench for a line that has helped the running game.
“I think we’ve been good up front,” Roper said. “We haven’t stayed healthy. That hasn’t been the easiest thing. We’ve been beat up a little bit, but that’s the nature of this work again. We’ve had some guys step up and play physical, so I’ve been pleased with the run game.
“I think we’ve got a chance to be a team that can run the football.”
FRUSTRATION IN TUSCALOOSA: At the end of the first half of the game at Alabama, Florida coach Will Muschamp decided to run the football and head to halftime down a touchdown instead of trying to push the ball down the field and score. He didn’t want to risk a turnover, a decision that has frustrated Florida fans since.
Roper made it clear this week that it was completely Muschamp’s call, but he agreed with the decision.
“We’re always on the same page,” Roper said. “Will and I work great together. And I was in 100 percent agreement with that. It wasn’t like we were being productive on offense at that point that you got a chance to go in one score down to tie the game. Now if you’re being productive and you’ve got 30 points at halftime and those things, maybe you’re more aggressive. But based on what was happening offensively, that was just a smart decision that I agree with 100 percent and always will.”
DURKIN RESPECTS TENNESSEE OFFENSE: The Volunteers come into Saturday’s matchup ranking 13th in the SEC in rushing offense and 8th in passing offense. Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley is much improved from last season and is more accurate in the passing game with a deep group of receivers to throw to.
Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said the goal of his group will be to stop the run and force the Volunteers to be one-dimensional.
“Winning the line of scrimmage is probably the most important thing,” Durkin said. “Any time you can make an offense one-dimensional or put them in predictable passing situations, that benefits you a bunch. They do a good job of mixing up run and pass, even in some third-and-longer-type situations, they’ll mix in runs. They do a good job of that to keep your off balance.
“They have a really good pass offense. They can deliver the ball down the field. Worley is playing with confidence. You can tell. He’s throwing the ball really well. We’ve got to try to make them one-dimensional so we can do some things with our pass defense.”
The focus on the ground is freshman running back Jalen Hurd, who has dominated touches in the backfield since Tennessee’s season opener. Florida recruited him because of his physicality and ability to push the pile, and the former five-star has shown that in the last three games.
The film shows his increase in confidence. He’s gaining trust of the Tennessee coaches, and they’re giving him more touches because of that.
“We’ve got to wrap up and tackle,” Durkin said. “We had way too many missed tackles in the (Alabama) game. We’ve got to tackle. (Hurd) is not a guy you can go hit and butt down. He’s not going to go down. You’ve got to hit him, wrap him up and tackle and get more guys to the ball.”
REPLACING ORR, OTHERS: Leon Orr (knee) will be out on Saturday, forcing the Gators to adjust at defensive tackle. Jonathan Bullard will slide inside and play more snaps at defensive tackle, meaning Bryan Cox will get reps at defensive end. Joey Ivie will also play more snaps at defensive tackle.
“We have a healthy rotation of guys up front some of those guys now will play some more snaps than they’ve been playing,” Durkin said. “But they’ve all been playing, so it won’t be anyone new out there, just some guys getting more reps.”
Linebacker Michael Taylor (knee) practiced some on Tuesday but remains questionable for Saturday. If he is forced to miss time, it won’t change much for the Gators at the position. The four-man rotation at linebacker now shrinks to three with Neiron Ball, Jarrad Davis and Antonio Morrison. Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian will both be ready for action if necessary, but Muschamp said the Gators would likely play 85-90 percent nickel, leaving only two linebackers on the field.TAILGATER Wooden Ice Chest Giveaway