"How healthy is Richie? How really ready to play a good defensive line like Florida's can he get in a week?" Sanders asked rhetorically. "We probably won't know that until Saturday when we get out there. Missing as much work as he's missed hurts."
As a fifth-year senior, Gandy understands UT's scheme and his assignments within that scheme. Thus, the mental part of the game should be no problem. The physical aspect is another matter, though.
"He knows what to do," Sanders said. "But understanding how hard you've got to push, how hard you're going to get hit, pad leverage, the length of your steps and all of those things … those are the things that are hard to be good at when you haven't been practicing."
Tennessee rushed for 138 yards vs. UAB, with Riggs' 110 leading the way. That sounds pretty good but the Vols should've exploited the defensively challenged Blazers a lot more than they did. UAB schemed to stop the big pass play, leaving its run defense somewhat vulnerable. UT simply didn't take advantage.
"While 138 yards isn't bad, it wasn't nearly what it should've been in that game," Sanders noted. "When you get a team that's lined up to play coverage and keep the passing game in front of them, you should run for more than 138 yards – regardless of whether it's UAB, Florida, Georgia or whoever."
So, why didn't the ground game click?
"It was a combination of things," Sanders said. "I don't know that we blocked ‘em as well as we needed to. I don't know that we ran as well as we needed to. The opportunities were there. We should've gotten more out of it than we did."
Maybe Gandy's return will help in that regard. It certainly can't hurt.