Scouting Tennessee Defense and Special Teams

While the Tennessee offense really doesn't scare anyone, there are aspects of their defense that can. This is a very good defensive team with speed and experience and they have added an all-time great in Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin. Last season Tennessee held the Gators to a season low 243 yards, but that's a bit deceptive.

The Gators were up 20-0 at the half and played very carefully the rest of the way not wanting to make a big mistake to open the door for a Tennessee comeback. Still Tennessee may be as good as any defense the Gators will see this year.

The star of the group is All-American safety Eric Berry who can play anywhere in the secondary. Shoot, they could probably play him at any LB position and he would be effective. Tennessee is playing him closer to the line with the emergence of freshman safety Janzen Jackson. I suspect Florida and other Vols opponents like Berry in the box. To appreciate how good Berry is, he has 12 interceptions and 11.5 tackles for loss in his career. He's a certain top 10 pick for next year's NFL Draft. The corners Art Evans and Marsalous Johnson are pretty good players but Florida can have success there. I also look for the Gators to try to draw Jackson in and try to go over the top of the rookie free safety.

I really like the LB corps; especially WLB Rico McCoy (12 tackles) who is one of the best in the SEC and MLB Nick Reveiz (15 tackles) who is a strong, physical middle but not a fast sideline-to-sideline guy. The weakest of the three is SLB LaMarcus Thompson (8 tackles), but he does have three tackles for loss. I think he'll have to be more restrained this week because of having to match up with Aaron Hernandez.

The best player on the D-Line is Dan Williams who is a big (6-3 325), strong guy. Watching him against the Pounceys will be great stuff. The other DT is Wes Brown who got hurt in the UCLA game. DE No. 84 Chris Walker has two sacks and might be their best edge rusher, but he's not dominant.

Overall I like this defensive unit. The strength in the back seven against Florida's somewhat unproven receiving corps might be the most interesting match up of the game. I also think Florida will be much more aggressive than they were in Knoxville a year ago.

Tennessee Special Teams -----

For the first time since reconstruction there is not a Colquitt punting for Tennessee. Instead they have Chad Cunningham who is averaging 49.7 on just three punts. The place kicker Daniel Lincoln from Ocala is a good one. They haven't done much or allowed much in the return game the first two weeks, but the main issue here is the problem they've had containing Brandon James over the years including a punt return for a TD last season.

There's no question in my mind that Florida is the better team, though I find a near 30-point spread a little much. The early part of this game will be critical since Tennessee's confidence has to be shaky after the UCLA loss and the way the last two Florida games played out. If the Gators start strongly they could put this team away, but early success for the Vols would help them build confidence and make this game much more difficult.


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