Scouting Report: Tennessee Defense

While Tennessee is one of the best offensive football teams the Gators will see this year, they are not among the better defenses on the Florida schedule. In their first two games the Vols are allowing 160 yards a game on the ground and another 252 through the air. California (45) and Southern Miss (19) both enjoyed significant success.

Up front the Vols are pretty stout in the middle with tackles Demonte Bolden and Dan Williams but you can get outside on them. They have a pair of senior defensive ends in Antonio Reynolds and Xavier Mitchell, but I think that a non-starter, Robert Ayers is better.

The linebackers are the strength of the defense, especially Rico McCoy and Jerod Mayo who are both good players who seem to be in the middle of everything. The third linebacker, Ryan Karl is a solid guy, but he's one Florida will try to exploit in certain match ups.

The secondary is not great. Free safety Jonathan Heffney is a good player but you get go over the top on him. They lost cornerback Antonio Gaines for the year, forcing them to move freshman Eric Berry from strong safety to corner. Now Berry practiced at corner for most of the pre-season, but it's hard enough being a true freshman in this league without changing positions twice in the first month. Tennessee does that quite regularly (Heffney was a corner) but I'm not a fan of it. Look for the Gators to try and attack both corners.

All in all this is a defense Florida can attack effectively. Tennessee would rather face on offense like, well Tennessee's than one with Florida's speed. Simply put, both teams are much more confident when their offense is on the field. The Gators aren't going to score 49 in the first half (Troy) or even 35 (Western Ky.) but they should have a productive afternoon/evening.

Special Teams ----- Vols punter Britton Colquitt is one of the best punters in the country when healthy, but he didn't kick great in the opener (40.8) and missed game two. He's bothered by a quad muscle injury that may be due to him pulling double duty as punter and kickoff man in pre-season practices. The place kicker Daniel Lincoln is from Ocala Forest and is 4-for-4 on field goals with a long of 47.

Tennessee is good in the return game with Heffney (17.0) on punt returns and Foster (39.0) on kickoff returns. However their coverage has not been as good. The Vols gave up a spectacular punt return to Cal's DeSean Jackson and they're allowing 23.3 on kickoff returns including a 42-yarder.

This is a game where both offenses are better than the opposing defenses, but often that inspires guys on that side of the ball to raise their play. Coaches love to say how special teams are equally important, and while I rarely agree with that theory this game could well be the exception. I suspect when all is said and done in The Swamp on Saturday it will be a special teams play that stands out as the difference maker.


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