published Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Vols defenders see Gators as mystery

Tennessee's Brent Brewer (17) takes down Montana's Cam Warren during their Sept. 3 game at Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee's Brent Brewer (17) takes down Montana's Cam Warren during their Sept. 3 game at Neyland Stadium.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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KNOXVILLE -- It's no longer the same ol' Florida.

Or at least that's what the Tennessee defense is preparing for this week.

Between Florida's new offense and the 16th-ranked Gators' vanilla approach in their first two games, the Volunteers aren't sure exactly what to expect when the Southeastern Conference East Division rivals meet Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Gainesville.

"We really don't know everything that's going to come," sophomore safety Brent Brewer said Monday at UT's weekly news conference. "There's probably going to be a lot of surprises -- a lot of different motions and things like that -- so we've got to be ready for everything."

When new Florida coach Will Muschamp hired Charlie Weis away from the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs to be the Gators' offensive coordinator, it signaled the start of the transition from a spread-option offense under former coach Urban Meyer to a more traditional pro-style offense.

The Vols (2-0) might not know much more than that after Florida cruised by Florida Atlantic and UAB in the first two games by a combined score of 80-3.

"We don't have a lot to go on because both games they just overwhelmed their opponents," coach Derek Dooley said. "It's like watching a preseason game. I don't think they showed a lot. I know they're going to show a lot more against us.

"They're able to get two games under their belt and not have to go deep into their playbook. They got a lot of guys experience; they're going to be fresh. We're going to have to be prepared for a lot more than what we saw in the first two games."

What the Gators have shown so far is a reliance on Chris Rainey, a senior who leads them with 198 rushing yards and 110 receiving yards. Tailback Jeff Demps, who left the UAB game early but is expected to play Saturday, ran for 73 yards in Florida's 31-17 win in Knoxville last season.

Given UT's youth and question marks on defense, Dooley's focus is more on personnel than style.

"They have really good coaching and they have playmakers," he said. "If they ran spread, I'd be nervous. They run pro-style, I'm nervous. [If] they ran wishbone, I'd be really concerned. If they ran the wing-T, because we don't see that very often, I'd be nervous.

"I don't think there's a scheme out there where we'd say we're in great shape. We look at their guys and their coaches and go, 'They've got good players and coaches.'"

Florida looked odd enough last season without former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow running the show, but now the Gators might look even more different.

"When I think of Florida, I think about that spread look and getting ready to run and be in open space," said UT senior linebacker Austin Johnson. "I like it that they're not doing all that. It's a little bit of a challenge because they do a lot of shifts and motions and make us move around a lot and make a lot of calls. It's definitely a changeup. Cincinnati threw out some stuff that we hadn't seen yet, and we've got to be able to adjust in the game and at the moment."

Dooley said the Vols pulled out some video from Muschamp's defenses at Texas and Weis's offenses at Notre Dame, where he was the head coach from 2005 through '09.

"We did that in the offseason like everybody else does," said Dooley, who coached with Muschamp under Nick Saban at LSU and with the NFL's Miami Dolphins. "I don't know how much it matters. You watch it till you're blue in the face and then at the end of they day you go out there and they do something totally different."

What the Vols know they'll see is a challenge from a talented offense.

"We'll definitely see how good we are this week," Brewer said. "I believe we're good. Se just have to communicate and get everybody on the same page."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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Vols might be Gators. The fact that anyone can say that with a straight face after the way the last few games between these two have gone is a victory in itself.

JUCO Recruiting Rankings: Tennessee's Top 5 Targets for 2012 http://www.checkerboardchatter.com/2011/09/visit-checkerboard-chatter-team-store.html

September 13, 2011 at 12:13 p.m.
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