Attacking Florida's 'savvy' DBs

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When Florida-Tennessee week arrives each September, statistics of years prior typically center around how the team that runs the football better walks out of a rowdy stadium victorious.

However, all the way up until kickoff, plenty of attention will be geared toward the Volunteer wide receiving corps versus the Gator defensive backs.

"I've played against them three years now and I know what they've got and know what they do," Tennessee senior Zach Rogers said. "They play a lot of man coverage. They're very aggressive in their man coverage. We've just got to beat them. It's going to be a lot of individual matchups this time around. It's going to be who wants it more."

Florida head coach Will Muschamp is regarded as one of the top defensive backs coaches in college football. The 41-year-old Georgia graduate coached DBs at West Georgia, Eastern Kentucky and Auburn. Rogers believes his fellow hands-team members see that as a welcomed challenge.

"Their secondary is very savvy. They've been around it, they know how to play it. Coach Muschamp is a defensive-minded head coach and we know that and they rely on their defense.

"It should be a great matchup for us."

Vol starters Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson are listed at 6-feet-4, 200 pounds and 6-3, 205, respectively. Though that duo may have the height and length advantage on all cornerbacks lined up across from them, look for the Gators to negate some of that with in-your-face press coverage.

"They play a lot of many coverage and they are in your face all game," Rogers said. "We know that and they had a lot of interference calls last year, but that's just how they play ball. We've got to get them off of us and make plays."

Hunter, who is on the Biletnikoff Preseason Watch List, enters Saturday with 17 catches for 219 yards and three touchdowns. The junior told InsideTennessee that he is receiving "about the same" amount of bracket coverage this season with Patterson on the opposite side, whereas he had former Vol an

Vol senior Zach Rogers and his teammates are looking forward to the challenge Florida provides.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
Looking to take the high road and avoid bulletin board material, Hunter and Patterson both simply smile when "single coverage" is brought up. The Virginia Beach, Va., native welcomes defenses that try to single up on him or Patterson.

"I've been saying that since high school," Hunter said. "When somebody plays me man-on-man, I was told you've got to go out there and beat them. So, your eyes have to get wide open when you get man-to-man coverage."

It's harder to jump with an elbow in the ribs. It's harder to come clean out of a break with a jersey being tugged. Although Hunter played just three snaps before tearing an ACL and Patterson was at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, veterans like Matt Elam, Josh Evans, Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins all saw action against the Big Orange last year.

As Rogers noted, when the league games roll onto the calendar, Vol wideouts know they are in for a physical challenge.

"That's SEC for you," he said. "They're physical from Snap 1 to Snap 85 or however many plays we play. We've got to be ready for it."

Last September, Florida took advantage of pressure from its front line, bad snaps from center James Stone and an overly-aggressive Tyler Bray to intercept two passes and dropped the opportunity to pull in twice as many.

Muschamp, along with Dooley, spent time under secondary guru and Alabama head coach Nick Saban, fine-tuning the art of molding minds on the "rip" technique and maintaining contact between the snap and whistle.

"I don't know if it's about physicality," Dooley said. "Those guys at N.C. State were physical players. It's a style, a philosophy on what they play. Are they hands-on, deny the ball or zone, read the quarterback? This team is more hands-on, deny the ball."

The Gators, who were penalized 10 times as a team the first half of the victory over Bowling Green, received nine flags last season in The Swamp and eight of those came against the secondary.

Even though it's 15 yards for the offense, Tennessee's head coach doesn't completely see the flag as a win on that particular play.

"Yeah, but I think sometimes it means we're not doing a good job of getting separation and we get lucky," Derek Dooley said. "I'd rather us separate where they can't interfere."

See what Bray, Hunter and Patterson said following Tuesday's practice in the video from InsideTennessee below:

Tyler Bray

Justin Hunter

Cordarrelle Patterson

Here is footage from Dooley's post practice report:


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