Tennessee info Florida may not know

Marvin Westwestwords

Do you suppose Florida is alarmed by the rebirth of Tennessee football? Probably not.


It was Chattanooga, reduced in difficulty by all those turnovers plus the blocked kick, to no problem.

Upon careful review, the Gators may conclude that Jarrett Guarantano played somewhat better for the Volunteers than in the two losses. His first pass could (should) have been intercepted. He again failed to see an open receiver or four and was late on several throws.

If you prefer to concentrate on results, he notched three touchdown passes in the first half. The Mocs helped.

Jeremy Banks, who doesn’t really know if he is a running back or linebacker, was deployed on defense, dropped into pass coverage and intercepted two. We know he is fiercely determined. He is a hitter. He looked very athletic. Florida might be confused.

Tennessee was less confused in the offensive line. Coaches cut down on the wild and crazy rotations of the previous two games. There was a hint that they might eventually decide on a best front five. Some teams accomplish that in August.

Tyler Byrd reappeared and contributed. He blocked a punt that turned into a touchdown and tipped another that led to favorable field position.

Back in 2016, I thought the four-star recruit was going to be a Butch Jones five-star Volunteer. He caught a touchdown pass against Texas A&M. He played well against Florida. He had a long kickoff return at Vanderbilt.

He did less as a sophomore and barely made the statistical chart last season. He’s back. It may not have registered with the Gators.

The Tennessee-Chattanooga game didn’t last long. Ty Chandler shook off a pair of would-be tacklers and returned the opening kickoff 58 yards. Six plays later Tennessee took a 7-0 lead.

The Mocs’ first drive ended with Byrd’s block and Brandon Johnson’s scoop and TD run. Two minutes later, Guarantano extended a broken play and completed a pass to Jauan Jennings. That made it 21-0 and the first quarter wasn’t half finished.

Tennessee later attacked Chattanooga with some young people I have not met. Fred Orr from Clarksville carried seven times for 32 yards. He is quick.

James Christian, fireplug type, 5-8 and 204, had a 12-yard run.

Janie and Chris Omer undoubtedly got a boost from son Chip’s two carries, 12 yards gained. He is a Vol Scholar from Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville. I tell you these details because walk-ons get limited opportunities.

It may not matter much to Florida but Chattanooga told us some things about Tennessee. Coach Rusty Wright granted David Ubben of The Athletic full access to the Mocs’ full week of preparations for the Vols.

We never would have guessed the Mocs had a buffet of spaghetti, fried chicken and burgers on Friday evening – or that there was apple and peach cobbler with a sundae bar on the side.

No way would we have known that Coach Wright does his own monitoring of study hall. The Mocs live with built-in shortages.

They have 52 scholarships. Tennessee has 85. Chattanooga’s staff page lists 18 people, including 11 coaches. Tennessee has 11 coaches, many assistant assistants, five strength coaches, 12 helpers for player development/operations/health and welfare and a crowd of 36 for support.

Ubben tells us that the Mocs cracked the secret code, that No. 81 tips off opponents where the Vols are going with the football.

“81 will take you to the ball!” was on the front page of the defensive scouting report.

Tennessee 81 is Austin Pope, 6-4 and 235, a knockdown blocker from Christian Academy of Knoxville. When he and starting tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson are together on the field, the Vols have been running the ball 83 per cent of the time.

Logical, very logical.

Easy coaching: “All you got to do is look for 81. He’ll tell you where to go.”

One coach summed up the Tennessee situation: “I can see why people with the personnel to do it beat them. They tell you what they’re doing.”

Florida has the personnel. It does not have quarterback Feleipe Franks. He suffered a season-ending ankle injury at Kentucky Saturday evening. The next man up, Kyle Trask, led the Gators’ dramatic comeback victory.

Now there is a story. Trask has played in three games in three years. He has been where Franks is. Kyle suffered a broken foot before the 2017 opener. Last year, he played well when Franks was benched but went down with another practice injury, an awkward step.

There is another bit of Gator news: Starting safety Donovan Stiner will miss the first half of the Tennessee game. He was ejected for a targeting foul against the Wildcats.

If you concede that Florida has an edge in defensive talent and the offenses are near enough to even, you might conclude the game will come down to home field advantages, coaching expertise and emotions. I have not figured out the significance of 45-0 against Chattanooga. I do feel better about the future than I did.

Marvin West invites reader remarks and questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com.

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