Scheming up Florida's offense

Keep checking in with to stay on top of the news in Knoxville. Sign in or subscribe now to read this story and watch these video interviews.

The creation of "big plays" on defense was a point of emphasis for Tennessee throughout the winter, spring and summer. Sliding a check mark in that box versus No. 18 Florida on Saturday will be key if the No. 23 Volunteers want to snap their seven-game losing streak versus their Southeastern Conference Eastern Division rival.

Five different Tennessee defensive backs have snagged interceptions in the 2-0 start. Four of the front seven have registered sacks.

"What we feel is a lot more confidence as a defense in our scheme and how we've played thus far," Vol nose tackle Daniel Hood told InsideTennessee. "I just feel like we're stopping the run better, we're in our gaps better. We're getting more turnovers. So, as a defense, I think we feel a lot better than we did last year."

Third-year coach Derek Dooley isn't content with what he sees from his pass rush, but he does see signs of improvement.

"We're getting back there a little better," Dooley said at Monday's press conference. "We hit the guy a lot last week."

Against Georgia State, the quarterback was pressured 10 times.

Jeff Driskel will take the field as Florida's starting QB for the second time. He saw some time against a 3-4 attack as a true freshman when he came on for the injured John Brantley against eventual national champion Alabama. Driskel completed 2 of 6 passes for 14 yards and was sacked twice. He also ran it six times for a net of 18 yards.

Driskel, a former five-star signee, is sure to see a variety of looks from Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri and his base 3-4 scheme. Accurately diagnosing what he sees won't be a simple task. First-year Gator offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brent Pease carries much of that responsibility of getting his right-hander fundamentally and mentally ready.

Defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri and the Volunteers are at work developing a game plan to defend the Gators.
(Danny Parker/
"Honestly, I think it's probably the hardest thing for a quarterback to see with two outside linebackers," Vol junior linebacker Jacques Smith told IT. "Which one's coming? Which one's dropping? Is the safety rotating down or not? It's a lot of things to see in a 3-4 and everything is moving constantly. It's definitely a hard defense to adjust to.

"They study just like we do. I know they're going to be prepared, and they're going to study just as much as us. We'll see how it turns out Saturday."

Pease was the offensive coordinator at Kentucky in 2001 and 2002. Against the Vols' best team this century, his '01 Wildcats totaled 543 yards of offense and 35 points. However, the following year, it was a different story as UT posted a shutout and allowed a net of 172 yards.

The Gators appear equipped to get a body on any and all free blitzers. They entered the season with a combined 79 career starts, which is its second-highest total since 2006. The front of Xavier Nixon, James Wilson, Jon Harrison, Jon Halapio and Chaz Green are likely to be the first five onto Shields-Watkins Field and that was the five that trotted out in their victories over Bowling Green and Texas A&M.

However, the Aggies piled up eight sacks last week in College Station for a loss of 48 yards.

Driskel has already shown maturity that brought him comparisons to former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. Sometimes taking sacks is a better option than throwing the football. In 32 attempts this year, he has not thrown an interception.

"We've watched him on film," Hood said. "He's a heck of an athlete. So, that will be the thing is trying to get pressure on him, to knock him out of his rhythm and to try to bat some balls down."

The fourth-year Vol maintains that game planning to attack a 3-4 front isn't the simplest task, especially with nose tackle 6-foot-6, 360-pound Daniel McCullers clogging the middle.

"It's a lot different because they're not only planning for the 3-4," Hood said. "We show a lot of over and under fronts and odd fronts. So, they're not planning for just the 3-4. They're going to have to be able to block they stuff we're throwing out of our subpackages and our blitzes and things like that. Then, they have to be able to block us when we're just in our base 3-4 with Big Dan in the middle and then trying to decide how they're going to block him."

The safety blanket for the Big Orange defense is the team's offense, which has one of the country's most prolific passing attacks.

"We know with the offense that we have, we can score 14 points in 30 seconds. So, we've just got to play consistent, play hard and do our job and the offense will take care of itself."

Watch as Dooley addresses the media following practice Monday:

Hear more from Vol defenders in the video interviews from InsideTennessee below:

Maurice Couch

Jacques Smith

Prentiss Waggner

Marlon Walls

Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

Twitter | Facebook | E-Mail

Inside Tennessee Top Stories