Beat to Beat: Vols' strengths, weaknesses

Part of being a frequent visitor to Scout team sites is getting the perspective of beat reporters from all over the country. Check out answers on some of the pressing questions about the Volunteers' showdown with a Southeastern Conference Eastern Division rival.

From Tennessee 's third-down defense to the greatest concerns about Florida 's offense to the Gators-Vols rivalry itself, we analyze it all.

Take a deeper look at the matchup as Fightin' Gators publisher Bob Redman posed key questions for InsideTennessee managing editor Danny Parker.

How is Justin Worley's elbow? I know he came back in but that was a rough hit and cortisone injections work wonders for a short time period.

Parker:Two drives after returning to the Georgia game in relief of Nathan Peterman resulted in touchdowns. On Tuesday, Worley threw at practice and was full-go. The senior is wearing a padded compression sleeve on that right arm but has shown no signs of being slowed by Jordan Jenkins' hit.

Is there any aspect of the Florida offense that has Tennessee concerned?

Parker:Part of the massive decline of the Tennessee program that saw it lose 41 games in six seasons heading into 2014 was the lack of speed throughout the roster. As Butch Jones reiterated Tuesday, that will likely never be the case in Gainesville regardless of coach or scheme. Thus, pure speed is always cause for concern. Demarcus Robinson is a budding star and will command double teams. Jeff Driskel has shown when he tucks it and runs, he has the speed to run past SEC linebackers. As much heat as the Florida offense is taking after just two games, it has lost just one fumble and has thrown just three interceptions.

How does the average fan like that very few players are actually from Tennessee?

Parker:Actually, that's a myth. Eight players from the Volunteer State have started for the Volunteers this weekend. Middle Tennessee is producing talent like never seen before in modern times, including the two most-heralded freshmen — Jalen Hurd and Josh Malone. Seven players on the 2015 commitment list hail from Tennessee and two others are originally from the Vol State.

Any injured starters other than Worley?

Parker:Left tackle Jacob Gilliam is a fifth-year senior and former walk-on that tore his ACL in the season opener versus Utah State but is attempting to play through the tear. Gilliam practiced Tuesday but isn't expected to be available versus the Gators. Sophomore Josh Smith has the numbers to be Florida's second-leading receiver. Smith hurt his ankle at Oklahoma, sat out the Georgia game and has already been ruled out for Saturday. Worley isn't injured and will start.

What position group is their biggest strength on offense, weakness?

Parker:The skill on offense is youthful but has as much raw talent as any team in the SEC. Worley is the most improved player in the program and will finally get his chance to start against the Gators. However, the offensive line has had to be completely rebuilt and the right guard and right tackle were both in high school 10 months ago. The blockers made strides from Norman to Athens as this particular five is playing together as a group for merely the third time this weekend.

(Danny Parker/

What position group is their biggest strength on defense, weakness?

Parker:Tennessee has allowed just one third-down conversion in its last 93 minutes of game time — and those minutes were played at Oklahoma and at Georgia. Sophomore cornerback Cameron Sutton will be All-SEC, must be matched up with Robinson and the secondary as a whole has many snaps under its belt. Senior linebacker A.J. Johnson is the best football player Team 118 has. Weakness-wise, the defensive tackles aren't near the group they were earlier this century when the Vols were able to rotate in NFL-bound bodies off the bench.

Is it true that Vol fans would rather beat the Gators than any team on their schedule? If so, how can that be true when they play Bama every year? Do they just accept that they're not at a level where they can even hope for a win against Bama yet?

Parker:Depends on the age of the fan. The pair are two of the few on the league slate where Tennessee doesn't hold a gaudy all-time advantage. Members of Big Orange Country 40 years and older had minimal respect for Florida football prior to Steve Spurrier's arrival as head coach and want to beat Alabama more than anyone. The younger generation grew up seeing the Gators as a power and for several years this game went a long way in deciding who would represent the Eastern Division in the league title game. That divisional dynamic goes a long way in making Vols fans thirsty to knock off Florida. No program has beaten Alabama more than Tennessee and the two have locked up nearly 100 times. So, both from a geographical and historical perspective, the yearly contest against the Crimson Tide is more of the top rivalry. Make no mistake about it, both games are circled on the calendar many times over. (Note: Numerous Tennessee fans would prefer to see the annual Florida game moved to November with other rivalry contests.)

Do you think Florida should rotate QBs to keep the Vol Defense off balance? Or do you agree with coach Muschamp and just stick with Driskel?

Parker:Tough to answer without having seen all three games, practices and scrimmages. Jeff Driskel was Scout's No. 1 quarterback in the nation coming out of Oviedo. He has every physical tool imaginable to excel, and it's too early to pull the plug in favor of a freshman. Much of the pressure falls on former Tennessee running backs coach Kurt Roper to put Driskel in high-percentage throw spots. Coordinators can't fall in love with big arms as confidence reins supreme with triggermen. Set up the pass with the run, distribute the football with simple throws, roll the pocket with run-pass options and let that speed get the yards.

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