Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting Tennessee

Sep 18, 2019 | 0 comments

The No. 9 Gators square off with the Tennessee Volunteers (1-2) Saturday at noon. Florida (3-0, 1-0 SEC) faces a ton of questions as it breaks in a new quarterback and deals with several key injuries on defense. Meanwhile, the Volunteers finally got back on track after a rough start with a 45-0 thumping of UT Chattanooga. Both teams are looking to keep their momentum going.

Here are three positions of strength, three positions of weakness and three players to watch for from Rocky Top.

Three Positions of Strength

Defensive Back

For all of the issues Tennessee had on defense in its losses to Georgia State and BYU, defensive back play was not one of them. The Volunteers are allowing just 149 passing yards per game, second in the SEC and 14th in the country. They rank 12th in the nation in passing efficiency defense. Freshman Warren Burrell, junior Shawn Shamburger and redshirt junior Kenneth George Jr. split snaps at cornerback, while Nigel Warrior and Theo Jackson start at safety. Kyle Trask will be making his first start since his freshman year of high school, and the Gators have struggled to run the ball, so they’ll probably need to find a way to move the ball through the air against this secondary.

Special Teams

The Vols might have the best special teams unit in the conference. Punter Joe Doyle, a candidate for the Ray Guy Award in 2018, is averaging 47.8 yards per punt so far this season. The punt coverage team has done an excellent job, as they rank second in the country in net punting with a 49.3 average. Kicker Brent Cimaglia is 8-for-8 with a long of 51. They’re first in the league and fifth nationally with a 23.7-yard punt return average. They’re fourth in the conference with a 25-yard kickoff return average. Special teams can be the great equalizer for an underdog looking to pull off a road upset. This is one of the few positions where Tennessee could have an advantage over Florida.

Wide Receiver

Though UT ranks just 11th in the SEC in passing yards, they have a pair of dynamic wideouts who could challenge UF’s short-handed secondary. Jauan Jennings leads them with 12 catches for 208 yards (17.3 yards-per-reception) and four touchdowns. Marquez Callaway has caught nine passes for 127 yards (14.1 yards-per-reception) and two scores. The Gators figure to be without CJ Henderson again this week, and Marco Wilson struggled against Kentucky. This is one of the most important matchups in the game.

Three Positions of Weakness

Defensive Line

The Volunteers are 12th in the league in rushing defense at 157 yards-per-game, tied for ninth in sacks with six and tied for 10th in tackles-for-loss with 16. Georgia State ran for 213 yards against them. LaTrell Bumphis (two sacks) and Greg Emerson (one sack) are the only defensive linemen who’ve recorded sacks this season. Outside of Josh Hammond’s 76-yard run, the Gators have struggled to run the ball this season. This looks like a great opportunity to get the running game going. If not, Kyle Trask should have plenty of time to throw.

Offensive Line

The Vols haven’t fared much better on the other line of scrimmage. Head coach Jeremy Pruitt and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney want to be a pro-style, run-first team. Despite having a talented starting running back in Ty Chandler, they rank just ninth in the conference in rushing at 176.7 yards-per-game. Despite not giving up any sacks in their win over UT Chattanooga, they still rank just tied for seventh in the SEC in sacks allowed. They surrendered a total of five sacks in their two games versus lower-level FBS competition. They start true freshmen at left tackle and right guard. After recording just one sack against Kentucky, Florida’s front-seven will have a chance to get back on track on Saturday.

Tight End

Starter Dominick Wood-Anderson has caught just five passes for 90 yards. Top reserve Austin Pope has caught just one pass for zero yards. Princeton Fant is the only other tight end on the roster with a catch in his career, and he’s in his first season at the position. This position figures to be a non-factor for Tennessee in the passing game.

Three Players to Watch

Left tackle Wanya Morris

Rarely will an offensive lineman make this list, but Morris has one of the toughest assignments on Saturday. The freshman will be tasked with protecting Jarrett Guarantano’s blindside from the nation’s top sack team. He figures to be primarily matched up with Jonathan Greenard. He could also matchup against Jeremiah Moon and Jabari Zuniga, if he’s back from injury. The last time the Gators’ defense faced a freshman left tackle, it didn’t end well for Miami, as they recorded 10 sacks. Morris was a five-star recruit, so it’ll be interesting to see how he’ll fare against one of the top pass-rushes in the country.

Wide Receiver Marquez Callaway

With Henderson likely out for the Gators again this week, Marco Wilson figures to get the primary assignment to cover Jennings. That leaves Callaway to matchup against Trey Dean or a freshman. In addition to his explosiveness as a receiver, he’s also an excellent punt returner. He’s averaging 15.5 yards on his two returns this season, and he’s run back two punt for touchdowns in his career. He’s the Volunteers’ most versatile skill player, and they’ll give him the ball in a variety of ways.

Linebacker Henry To’o To’o

The freshman was a top-50 overall prospect. He leads the team with 2.5 tackles-for-loss and is second with 17 total tackles. He’s effective as a blitzer and can create havoc in UF’s backfield. If Florida’s going to finally establish a running game, they’re going to have to find a way to neutralize him.

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