Surviving Life On An Island With Gators

Playing cover corner has been compared to being on an island, but playing that solitary role against Florida¹s formidable passing attack is more like being on Devil¹s Island.

That inhospitable environment is an inescapable destination for any
cornerback who signs on as a Volunteer. It is also, fairly or unfairly, the
game by which he is measured and remembered.

Take the case of Willie Miles who drew the unenviable assignment of
checking Florida receiver Jabar Gaffney on the Gators' game-winning 91-yard
drive, capped by a three-yard pass from Jesse Palmer to Gaffney.

Miles remembers that day all too well and, after redshirting last season
with a wrist injury, he's anxious to get another chance to wrestle the
Gators and exorcise some demons.

"It is very important to me not just for team reasons, but some personal
aspects as well," Miles said when asked about Saturday¹s rematch. "The last
time I was on the field against the Gators, the result was bad and I was
right there at the end. I want to show the coaches
how appreciative I am for them staying with me and keeping faith in me."

In addition to gaining some personal retribution, Miles sees this game as an
opportunity for the Tennessee secondary to make a statement on its
improvement.

"Well there have been some loud ones made by Tennessee guys, but we want to
shut them down on Saturday," he said. "They probably want to come in here
and make us look bad also. That is the nature of the game. Myself and the
other DBs just want to perform as best as we can and come out on top at the
end of the game."

In 2000, Gaffney had a breakout game with six receptions for 91 yards. Last
spring Gaffney departed early for the NFL (Houston Texans) along with
teammate Reche Caldwell (San Diego Chargers) leaving senior Taylor Jacobs as
the Gators go-to guy. He showed what he was capable of with a 10-reception,
170-yard performance against Maryland in the Orange Bowl last January, but
what other Florida receiver may be lurking in the shadows awaiting his
moment in the sun?

"Well all of their guys are very good," said Miles. "Outside of Jacobs I
don't really know who could step out and be the game-breaker. (Carlos) Perez
is very good (Vernell) Brown and (Kelvin) Kight also looked good on film. I
have heard that they have a freshman (Reggie Lewis) that has looked very
good, so our job is real simple. Cover whoever is on the field and do our
best to stop them."

On the opposite side of Miles will be teammate Jabari Greer, who has
experienced both victory and defeat versus the vaunted Florida passing
attack as a freshman and sophomore. He sees Saturday's contest as an
opportunity to prove UT's secondary is up to the task.

"Well for us (secondary) this is the money game," Greer said. "We have to
show up big-time on Saturday. I told Julian Battle, you know all these draft
experts are calling a first rounder and all that, if he is that Saturday
this is his time to shine. This is the type of game that will leave its mark
on you as a player for a long time."

Because UT¹s four starting defensive backs have as much experience beating
Florida than losing, the intimidation factor doesn¹t hold sway over the Vols
current secondary.

"I don't know if we have ever been intimidated by them, but I haven't been
here the entire time," said Greer. "I know that me, Willie or whoever is in
there, will lock them down one and one. We know that this is the time to
play our 'A' game."

Neither is Greer overwhelmed at the thought of matching up with Jacobs for
60 minutes on Saturday.

"He is a great receiver," Greer said. "His first game of the season with the
250 something yard game was tremendous. In grade school or maybe high
school, I might have been known to take a play off just because you knew it
wasn't a big down. This is Tennessee-Florida. Every down is huge. You take a
down off here, it could change the ball game."

To say nothing of a DB's career.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories