The perfect pre-Florida foe

Tennessee coaching legend Bob Neyland used to schedule Chattanooga the week prior to Alabama with the understanding that the Moccasins would run the Tide's offense to help the Vols prepare for The Big Game.

Current Vol head man Phillip Fulmer inadvertently got the same benefit last weekend against UAB. The Blazers gave UT's defensive staff a pretty good look at what to expect from this Saturday's opponent, the fourth-ranked Florida Gators.

- Like Florida, UAB relies heavily on The Spread formation.

- Like Florida, UAB has a big, mobile quarterback who runs as effectively as he passes. The Blazers' Joe Webb (6-4, 220) isn't as powerful as Florida's Tim Tebow (6-3, 240) but he poses a similar rushing threat.

- Like Florida, UAB occasionally deploys a speedster as a direct-snap tailback for a change of pace. The Blazers used Rashaud Slaughter in that role against Tennessee much the way Florida uses Percy Harvin.

- Like Florida, UAB uses the occasional trick play to keep opponents guessing. The Blazers ran a reverse throw-back pass to the quarterback last Saturday that led to an interference penalty against the Vols.

"They ran a couple of reverses, speed sweeps and stuff like that," Vol linebacker Rico McCoy said. "Florida's known for stuff like that, so that'll help us out a little bit. When they put No. 1 (Slaughter) back at quarterback, he was like a Percy Harvin or one of those speed guys running from the quarterback position."

Although the 0-3 Blazers clearly cannot match the 2-0 Gators in terms of manpower, they do play the same basic offensive system.

"I don't think they could've scheduled a better team to play before Florida, as far as formations and the plays they run," McCoy noted. "It's very similar to Florida's offense."

Tennessee safety Eric Berry agreed. He believes dealing with Webb's mobility helped the Vols considerably in preparing for Tebow.

"Five was a great athlete," Berry said. "He gave us a great look at what Tebow's going to do. Tebow's probably going to be a little bit more physical but I think it was a good opportunity to see what Florida's going to look like, as far as the option game in The Spread offense."

Middle linebacker Ellix Wilson echoed those sentiments.

"Five was a great, great player, very elusive," he said. "I think that's going to give us a good edge on Tim Tebow because he does the same things. He's just a little bit more physical."

The fact Tennessee's defense limited UAB to 275 yards of total offense and three points last weekend seems to bode well heading into the Florida game this weekend. Still, defensive coordinator John Chavis isn't sure shutting down the Blazers will have much impact on the Florida game.

"Hopefully, it'll help," he said. "Hopefully, it'll help."


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