Taking a look everything from the decibel level at Tennessee 's Neyland Stadium to the importance of Saturday's showdown with Florida for the career of a young head coach, Scout takes Gators and Volunteers fans in-depth on this Southeastern Conference Eastern Division matchup.
Bob Redman is the Managing Editor at FightinGators.com and has been covering Florida football and basketball since 2004. Prior to that, he worked with the Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook staffs at Florida for 10 years, leaving his spot on the Florida staff as a quality control assistant in the summer of 2004. Redman answers your questions here.
Take a deeper look at the matchup as Redman answered key questions from InsideTennessee managing editor Danny Parker.
What's impeding Jeff Driskel's progress?
Redman: Jeff has all the arm tools to be an elite quarterback, but has never been a guy to learn things quickly. They have tried simplifying things for him with this offense, and he just seems a second behind sometimes. I do think they need to utilize his feet more as he can really run and create on the run. I also think Florida lacks a lot of play makers at receiver which should never happen at Florida.
How major of a game is this for Will Muschamp's job security?
Redman: This game is the biggest of his career so far in my opinion. The scrutiny and heat that will follow this game if the Gators lose or lose bad will be the most in a long, long time at Florida. The next four games are paramount in my opinion and winning three of four (a tall task) would go a long way in helping matters.
How does Dante Fowler compare to Florida greats off the edge like Kevin Carter and Jevon Kearse?
Redman: I think he is like tweener when compared to those two. He has the ability to bull rush like Carter, but not quite as big, he has the ability to come off the edge like Kearse, but maybe not quite as fast. I think he is the best player on the Gators squad and maybe doesn’t have the stats yet to prove it, but he is all over the place and those stats will show up before the end of the year.
With Neyland Stadium already a sellout crowd of 102,455, is this Florida roster a veteran enough group to not be affected by noise?
Redman: The good thing is they played in front of a huge raucous crowd in Alabama (over 100K) two weeks ago and they stayed close for three quarters so the crowd was still in it the whole time. The bad news is they sputtered mightily in the end, but I don’t think the crowd was the issue. There wasn’t a single false start or delay of game or off-sides on offense against Alabama and I think those are the things you worry about most with the noise. I think they will be fine in that regard.
How is the pass-catching depth outside of Demarcus Robinson?
Redman: As I mentioned briefly above, the receiver issues are well documented in these parts. I see a couple of former Gators targets lining the Vols roster these days and that has been all too common in recent history and given the ineptness on offense for the last five years it isn’t hard to figure out why big play makers haven’t wanted to come here. Having said that, usually senior Quinton Dunbar is a reliable pass catcher with decent speed, but dropped three important first downs already this year. Junior Valdez Showers is a speedster and a guy that probably needs to see more touches. The last one that is waiting to break out is sophomore Ahmad Fulwood, who is the tallest receiver and long strider with open field speed. They want to get freshman running back Brandon Powell involved in the passing game, but he is nursing a hamstring injury and will miss the contest with the Vols.
Outside of Fowler and Vernon Hargreaves, who are the playmakers on defense?
Redman: Sophomore Keanu Neal is a guy that makes big plays and also has been burned. They love him and think the free safety will be big time before he is done. The Gators okay at linebacker, nothing special, except SAM Neiron Ball has been a play maker, especially coming off the edge in pass rush situations. I expect to see him a lot on Saturday. Corner will be a very talented group in the future, but they are very young at this point and there isn’t a lot of trust just yet.
How did the fan base react to Emmitt Smith's tweet during the Alabama game asking for Driskel to be benched?
Redman: Mixed response really depending on who was already vocal about their displeasure of Driskel’s play and who isn’t. It was irresponsible of Smith to do that and he actually called to apologize to Driskel himself and talk to the whole team about it afterward. He’s a good guy and he let his emotions during the game get the best of him.
Where is the Tennessee game on the list of Florida's top rivals?
Redman: An honest answer would have to include the caveat that the Gators are on the long winning streak they are on now, so the hatred isn’t quite like it was in the 90’s. I would say third behind Florida State and Georgia, which are both much closer in proximity and have been played for a much longer time every season. Florida hasn’t beaten Georgia in three years, so that one gets the fans riled up furiously right now.
Continue getting educated on Saturday's contest by clicking on the latest Insider Report below with Danny Parker and IT publisher Josh Woodward:
Insider Report: Previewing Gators-Vols