Gators Preparing for UT's Offense

Tennessee's Erik Ainge may be the best quarterback the Gators will face all season, and that could cause problems for the Florida secondary. Head coach Urban Meyer has nothing but utmost respect for the Vols signal caller.

"Ainge is an NFL quarterback," Urban Meyer said after Thursday's practice. "He's an NFL prototype. Their receiving corps has some new names out there, but they are very talented. They are Tennessee, and Tennessee is always going to have great players and this is no exception. Coach [David] Cutcliffe has done a very good job with him in the last couple of years."

Erik Ainge leads the SEC in passing yards after just two games, averaging 273.5 yards per game. He ranks among the leaders in every passing category and has tossed five touchdowns without throwing a pick so far this season.

But it's the ground game that concerns Meyer heading into Saturday's match-up.

"If we can hold up against the run," Meyer said. "I think our defensive line going against an SEC offensive line [is the biggest concern]."

The Vols are averaging more than 150 yards a game, led by Arian Foster who rushed for 125 yards against Southern Miss last weekend. The Gators actually rank second in the SEC defending the run, but Troy and Western Kentucky didn't present the kind of ground attack the Gators will see for the remainder of the season.

Run defense starts in the middle with the Gator defensive tackles, and after Brandon Antwine started in place of Javier Estopinan against Troy, Meyer said Estopinan will rejoin Clint McMillan as the starting tackles against the Vols.

Importance of Special Teams

Tennessee lost their season opener to California two weeks ago, and Meyer said Bears returner DeSean Jackson's 77-yard return for a touchdown in the third quarter was the turning point.

"I just have great respect for Cal," Meyer said. "That whole game was turned around on a punt return from Cal. They were in punt safe, which means that they had their defense on the field, but DeSean Jackson had that great return."

Dee Webb's blocked field goal off the leg of Tennessee kicker James Wilhoit was a turning point the last time the two teams met in The Swamp.

"The history of this game two years ago was changed by a big play like that in our stadium – a blocked field goal," Meyer said. "I think this game is going to come down to a big play as well."

Meyer said blocking kicks are one of the biggest momentum changers in the game of football, and he hates to be on the wrong end of one.

"It's excruciating," Meyer said. "It's maybe the most painful thing to watch. Fortunately, it doesn't happen very often around here. On a list of momentum changers, that's either one or two. I think a sack and a turnover is up there too."

Look out for Moore

Gator tailback Kestahn Moore isn't a gamebreaker, but he gives a consistent effort in the backfield for the Gators.

"Kestahn Moore had a tremendous practice all week," Meyer said. "It's one of the best weeks that he's had. Then Jarred Fayson and Brandon James are the three running backs that will play this weekend."

Moore was slowed by injuries last year, but has quickly moved up Meyer's list this fall.

"He's stronger and faster and in better shape than he's ever been," Meyer said. "Last year he was injured quite a bit. He had a minor sports hernia and some other stuff that just hindered him a little bit. Most of all, I think he's had enough, just like we've had enough at that position. It's either change or do not play, and he's changed all for the better. He's a great person. He's back to being that guy he was when he got here."


  • Meyer said cornerback Markihe Anderson may not be in on the first play on Saturday, but he will see significant playing time. Said Meyer, "I think we're anticipating him as close to full speed on Saturday."
  • Last year, Tim Tebow picked up an important fourth down conversion for the Gators in Knoxville, but don't expect to see the same thing from Tebow's backup Cameron Newton. Said Meyer, "He's close. … I think Tim was an exception. He was a little more mature than most guys."
  • UF freshmen and sophomores may be finally turning the corner. Said Meyer, "They're either faking it real good or they are getting a little better. They're starting to grow up a little bit."

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