Take Five Breakdown: Florida-Tennessee Preview

Tennessee Preview

by Chris Will
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Please Read: Welcome to the new-look Inside the Gators

It was a solid Saturday in The Swamp for the Florida Gators. A 49-7 win over McNeese State got the Gators back to winning ways, but now they welcome to Gainesville a bigger beast. The No. 11 Tennessee Volunteers are coming to town. Inside the Gators sat down with Adam Sparks of the Knoxville News Sentinel to get to know the Vols a bit better.

Five Tennessee Volunteers to Know

Joe Milton, Quarterback, Redshirt Senior

  • Milton threw 228 yards and two touchdowns against Austin Peay last week. He is widely considered the Anthony Richardson of this class given his ability to chuck a ball. He hasn’t thrown an interception in his Tennessee career. So, is he being efficient or playing it too safe? “He’s made good decisions,” Sparks said, “But they have not been throwing the ball down the field.”

Jaylen Wright, Running Back, Junior

  • Wright leads the team with 233 yards on the ground. “He is the best ball carrier of the group,” Sparks said, “He’s an explosive runner, is sort of coming into his own. He’s the one Gator fans should be more concerned with.

Dylan Sampson, Running Back, Sophomore

  • The Volunteers clearly want to run the ball. Through two games they have already eclipsed 500 rushing yards as a team. Sampson is the third-leading rusher in terms of yards but is an interesting case in how he’s been used. “[Sampson] had four touchdowns in the first game of the season against Virginia and barely touched the field the second game,” Sparks said, “So he’s a question mark. He’s a curiosity. He’s a guy that can catch the ball out of the backfield. And, obviously, with four touchdowns, they use him around the goal line.

Ramel Keyton, Wide Receiver, Senior

  • With Cedric Tillman and Jalin Hyatt now in the NFL, Tennessee was left with holes to fill in the receiving core. Keyton currently leads the way with 118 yards and a touchdown. “Keyton is sort of a hot or cold guy,” Sparks said, “If he’s wide open, he may drop it. If he’s blanketed with coverage, he’s probably going to catch it. So, in that way, he’s very hit or miss.”

Aaron Beasley, Linebacker, Senior

  • He has 12 total tackles, two sacks and two pass deflections. He’s the guy Sparks said is most likely to disrupt Florida quarterback Graham Mertz’s day. “He’s not a huge guy, but he’s really active, fast linebacker,” Sparks said, “He’s the guy I would watch if you told me somebody is going to make a couple of big plays that determine this game.”

Five Fast Facts

  • Florida hosts Tennessee for the 22nd time in the 53rd all-time meeting between the two programs.
  • The Orange & Blue boasts a 31-21 record in the series featuring victories in 16 of the last 18 matchups.
  • The Gators have not lost a home game to the Volunteers since 2003, owning nine straight home wins in the series.
  • Only 11 UF players including two starters (C Kingsley Eguakun and DB Jason Marshall Jr.) remain from the 2021 game.
  • In year one under DC Austin Armstrong, Florida ranks first in the Power Five and third in the FBS in total defense with 191.0 yards allowed per game. The Gators have surrendered just 150 total yards across their last six quarters.

Five GameDay Storylines

Tennessee in The Swamp

  • As stated in the Fast Facts, 2003 was the last time Florida lost at home to Tennessee. The Gators also haven’t lost consecutive games to the Volunteers since 2003-2004. That said, if it was a time for it to happen, it might be right now. Any later in this first season under defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong, and it may be a different story.


  • Both Florida and Tennessee faced off with FCS opponents last week. The Gators took on McNeese State and blew them out 49-7. Tennessee hosted Austin Peay, and it wasn’t the most convincing result. The Volunteers won 30-13. “A blowout against an FCS team, I think if that had gone Tennessee’s way, then they would feel very confident,” Sparks said, “I can’t speak for the players, but I would say the fan base is concerned a little bit.”

Mertz v. Milton

  • It isn’t Anthony Richardson versus Hendon Hooker, but maybe equally as intriguing. Both Mertz and Milton have kept the passing game relatively safe and short. Which quarterback comes out of their shell and starts slinging it may be the difference in this game. “Tennessee needs [Milton] to be what Hendon Hooker was last year, which was a guy that just made big plays in big games,” Sparks said.

Revamped Florida Defense

  • Currently third in the nation in yards per game given up on defense, the Florida defense is shaping up to be a new beast under Armstrong. “Florida has a lot of potential in its front seven,” Sparks said, “I think that’s going to be a pretty big matchup in this game of whether or not Tennessee can run the ball against that front seven because Tennessee wants to run the ball.”

Special Teams

  • Florida has had a fair share of special teams’ issues to open the season. A missed chip shot against Utah and a botched extra point against McNeese have hindered confidence in special teams. Tennessee has a new Aussie punter (Florida knows a thing or two about that). “With either foot, he’s been really good and then also had some shanks in the first two games,” Sparks said, “So hot or cold, that could be pivotal in this game of how Tennessee executes its opponent.”


  • Chris Will – 28-24 Tennessee
  • Adam Sparks – 34-30 Tennessee

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