The Case for Tennessee

Welcome to Devil's Advocate — Inside Tennessee's version of point/counterpoint — where each week analysts Randy Moore and Jeffery Stewart take opposite sides of the field to make their case for our readers' regular amusement and occasional edification.

There is nothing defensive players love more than a clean shot at the opposing quarterback, and Tennessee's defenders should get several of those shots Saturday night in Gainesville.

The spread option attack installed by new Florida coach Urban Meyer requires quarterback Chris Leak to run the ball on occasion. For instance, he carried seven times for 16 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday's 41-3 defeat of Louisiana Tech.

Obviously, utilizing the quarterback as a ball-carrier provides the Gators with an additional running threat. But it also exposes Leak to additional hits.

The mere thought of lowering the boom on Leak brings a smile to the face of UT middle linebacker Kevin Simon, who nearly knocked Florida's star QB senseless the last time the Vols and Gators met in Gainesville.

"Two years ago he tried to run the football, and I almost knocked him out of the game," Simon said, literally beaming at the recollection. "I talked to him later in the off-season and he said he was woozy after that play."

Simon thought Leak grew up a lot between 2003 and 2004. As a sophomore last fall Leak burned Tennessee for 22 completions in 31 attempts for 286 yards and three touchdowns.

"He just seemed a lot more composed, a lot more sure of himself," Simon said. "It was like he had a lot more confidence on the field, knowing where people were going to be and knowing what he was doing."

It's a safe bet Vol defenders will be looking to knock some confidence out of Leak every chance they get Saturday, whether he's running or looking to pass it. Here's a note that should provide them some encouragement:

Leak was sacked just once last weekend by Louisiana Tech. He fumbled.

Here are three more reasons I like Tennessee's chances Saturday night at Florida Field:

1. Tennessee has won its last two games at Florida Field. Obviously, the Swamp isn't nearly as intimidating when it isn't filled with guys like Danny Wuerffel, Jevon Kearse, Fred Taylor, etc.

2. Florida fattened up on cupcakes in its first two games of 2005. Tennessee faced enough of a test to find its flaws in the opener, then spent this week smoothing out the rough spots.

3. The Vols have been running the same offense for 25 years. The Gators have been running the same offense for four weeks.


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