Defensive Front Faces 2-Headed Monster

Dan McCarney

The Florida Gators saw a good running game last weekend led by a very talented quarterback that was everything on the ground and not so much through the air. In their first SEC test, on the road, and in a very hostile environment, the Gators will be facing a Tennessee team that promises to throw and run. Florida coach Dan McCarney is getting his defensive line for both.

South Florida's B.J. Daniels netted 107 rushing yards of his team's 244 last week and that won't be the case with Tennessee's Matt Simms. Daniels led a spread option attack that had the Gator defense back pedaling at times early in the game and allowed them more room than McCarney would have liked.

"We didn't pressure and would like to get more sacks," McCarney said of his front's play last week. "We knew we weren't going to sack B.J. Daniels 7-8 times, but we have nine turnovers and not giving up many points. We've scored twice on defense and have to continue those turnovers. We are going to have to get more pressure this week because they have a very talented quarterback."

The fact is, the Gators supposed stout run defense was gashed quite a bit against the Bulls and they schemed against Florida's defense well.

"There were not a lot of scramble yards by Daniels," McCarney said. "Without naming names, we have to do a better job of tackling in the open field, taking care of their responsibilities, and as a defense we have to get our hats on the ball.

"We gave up too many rushing yards last week so we need to work on that. We didn't have lots of missed tackles against one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the country but too many rushing yards. We have to improve and working on that."

Against Tennessee, it is a more straight ahead offense that relies on their running game to open up their passing game.

"We have to get an extra hat in the box and be smart about it," McCarney said. "That is what they want you to do because we get in the box and (they) take a shot with a quarterback with a really strong arm and some receivers with height that can go up there and get the ball."

McCarney certainly sees Tennessee as a pound it straight ahead team. They are currently averaging 257 yards per game of offense and their leading rusher Tauren Poole is averaging 136 yards per game on the ground.

"(They have a ) monster, athletic offensive line," he said. "They have offensive guards that are 330-plus pounds. You see talent and a rushing offense second in the SEC right now. They have the leading rusher in the SEC. It is a real fine football team. They had a top 10 team (Oregon) down 13-3 in the first half and 13-13 in the third quarter, so they are real capable.

"This team comes at you. It's Zone, Power, Lead Draw and they know what they are doing. They will take some shots down the field. (Poole) had 67 yards last year, but he looks like a veteran. He's strong, physical, and runs through tackles,. He spins, has a low center of gravity, physical and a good blocker. He is playing like a guy that has been a two year starter rather than his first year to play. We are very impressed with both of them."

Playing in front of a rowdy Tennessee crowd is something the Gators prepare for all the time and will be tough. At the same time, a game like this is something that the Gators recruit too.

"That is why these guys came here, to play in the best conference in America," McCarney said. "They need to embrace it and enjoy it and know that we are part of one of the great traditions in college football. I can't take their nerves from them, there will be an adjustment. There will be a crazy, wild Tennessee crowd there. I love it and hope my guys do and we have to play great defense to go on the road and win in the SEC."

The Gators are starting to get some really positive play from three of their star defensive linemen they signed in February. Dominique Easley is coming off a foot injury according to McCarney and is "fine, 100 percent ready to go". Sharrif Floyd and Ronald Powell are starting to make names for themselves. They are starting to help the Gators with a rotation that should keep the defensive front fresh throughout long games.

"Sharrif Floyd, Easley, and Powell, all those guys can and will and are part of a rotation right now, but who are you going to sit down?," McCarney quipped. "Justin Trattou or William Green? Those two guys are really playing well for us and they are veterans and really good players for us. Whether at home or on the road I want to continue to roll a lot of guys. We played 12 last week, I hope I can play 12 again this Saturday."

It looks to be hot again on Saturday and in a really tough environment. Having 12 guys ready looks to be all the more important with the start of the SEC.
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