Florida Gators at Tennessee Volunteers
Saturday, September 20th
Knoxville, Tennessee(Neyland Stadium)
Quarterback Tim Tebow and the fourth-ranked Florida Gators travel this Saturday to Knoxville, Tenn. to square off against Arian Foster and the Tennessee Volunteers in a heated SEC showdown.
The Gators are coming off a bye week and it couldn’t have come at a better time, because it gave them an extra week to allow gamebreaker Percy Harvin to rest his heel. Sure, he played against Miami on September 6th, but he only touched the ball six times.
It’s going to be interesting in this match up to see if Harvin will finally be 100 percent after it’s taken him longer than expected to recover from off-season heel surgery on his right heel.
The Virginia native spoke to the media earlier this week and sounds like he’s licking his chops:
“Coach just came to me and said he’s ready to cut me loose.”
That’s bad news for the Volunteer defense. Urban Meyer is excellent at getting his do-it-all playmaker the football in a variety of formations and plays. Look for Harvin to receive the ball on a variety of end-arounds, jet sweeps, and zone read handoffs . These type of plays allow the speedster to cut on the burners and turn the corner against opposing defenses.
Perhaps no other receiver in college football besides Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin is a greater all-purpose threat on the football field than Harvin. Last season he racked up over 1,600 all-purpose yards for the Gators and 10 touchdowns on the bad heel. Imagine what kind of numbers he can put up if he’s 100 percent for a change, which he claims he hasn’t been since his heel bothered him in high school. Look for him to get more than 15-20 touches on Saturday in a variety of ways.
While the Gators are excited to have Percy Harvin back to full health, that’s not to say they don’t have a variety of offensive weapons at their disposal. Senior receiver Louis Murphy is an emerging big play threat who has posted dizzying numbers this year for the Gators’ offense. He’s already hauled in 6 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns, averaging over 21 yards per catch. Those are video game numbers, folks!
Then there’s yet another all-purpose threat, receiver/punt returner/kick returner Brandon James, who also happens to be one of the most dangerous return men in college football.
So far this season, James has seven punt returns for 144 yards, averaging over 20 yards per return. He already has a 74 yard punt return for a touchdown. As dangerous he is as a punt returner, he’s arguably even more dangerous on kick returns—he has three returns for 82 yards—a blistering 27.3 average per return.
Make no mistake about it, James is definitely a man the Vols want to keep an eye on. Urban Meyer is excellent about getting his playmakers touches and James also has five catches on the season and is the Gators’ second-leading receiver thus far. He will be all over the place, so the Volunteer defense might get sick of seeing him on the field, but if they want a chance at winning this one, they must limit James’ big plays.
Running back Jeff Demps is yet another burner the Volunteer defense must worry about. He ran the 100-meter dash at an eye-gouging 10.01 seconds in high school and like many of other Florida’s players, he can hurt opponents with his lethal dose of speed.
Running back Chris Rainey is yet another weapon to watch out for on the offensive side of the ball for the Gators. Rainey is in the mold of a Reggie Bush, in that he’s blessed with scintillating speed and jaw dropping jukes in the open field that allow him to leave defenders in his wake with ease. He’s averaging over 7 yards per rushing attempt this season and has one touchdown. Look for a breakout year this season from Rainey. As long as he gets the touches, the sky is the limit.
Last, but not least on the Florida offense is junior quarterback Tim Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner that ESPN just won’t stop talking about. Tebow is one of the finest players in all of college football, because of his ability to bruise through defenders and run between the tackles with such tenacity and force, it is almost unbelievable. The man is a living legend on the gridiron, because his superhuman strength allows him to play through almost any injury, break any tackle, and carry a variety of defenders on any given play.
He’s already thrown for nearly 400 yards through the air this season, while completing over 60 percent of his passes and 3 touchdowns, with no interceptions. He’s also currently the Gators’ leading rusher, gaining 92 yards on the ground so far on 22 attempts. Tebow’s body was smashed and jostled around more than you could believe last season and head coach Urban Meyer has said that he will limit Tebow’s running opportunities this season to keep his star fresh.
If there is one man you will be seeing a lot of, and by that I mean a ridiculous amount of on Saturday, it’s number 15, Tim Tebow. As he goes, so does the entire Florida Gators’ offense. He is the engine, he is the catalyst. Without him, the entire operation wouldn’t be nearly as successful.
On defense, if the Volunteers wish to slow the Florida Gators’ offensive arsenal of weapons, then they must look to the defensive line and linebackers to create a push in the backfield and disrupt the offense. If they allow playmakers like Harvin to turn the corner uncontested, it won’t be a pretty sight for Volunteer fans.
Linebacker Ellix Wilson currently leads the Vols’ defense in tackles and they are going to need a huge day from him on Saturday if they wish to have a chance against UF. He’s been all over the place for the Volunteer defense this season, racking up 19 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and one interception.
Another playmaker for Tennessee is sophomore sensation of a cornerback Eric Berry. The kid was one of the most highly rated high school recruits in the country last season and he hasn’t disappointed a bit. He is currently tied for the team lead in interceptions (2) and is second on the team in tackles (10). Trust me, Eric Berry is a man that Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators’ must be aware of at all times on Saturday or he will make them pay and pay dearly.
He’ll be helped by senior defensive back DeAngelo Willingham who also has two picks for the season. Another man who is super talented as long as he keeps his head on straight is safety Demetrice Morley. He posted a phenomenal sophomore season for the Volunteers but left school after the 2006 season due to academic issues. He could definitely be a factor on Saturday.
Linebacker Rico McCoy is another man to watch on the Volunteers’ defense, he’s fourth on the defense in tackles (8) and was a second-team All-SEC selection last year. If the Tennessee defense wants any chance of stopping Tim Tebow, they must not allow him to have a day like UCLA’s Kevin Craft did. The Volunteer secondary allowed the Bruins’ clearly rattled third string quarterback to throw for over 250 yards against them. Those numbers won’t be acceptable on Saturday.
On offense, the Tennessee Volunteers offense is centered around running backs Arian Foster, Montario Hardesty, and Lennon Creer. Foster has 25 attempts for 196 yards on the ground this year, while Hardesty and Creer have combined for over 180 yards and five touchdowns between them.
The Vols’ senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton is dripping with jaw-dropping potential, but he’s unfortunately never had the work ethic to realize it. The kid is oozing with talent, but it remains to be seen if he can post the kind of numbers that he’s capable of.
This season he’s completed over 52 percent of his passes for 429 yards, two touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Those numbers are less than impressive for a kid who was touted as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks out of the state of North Carolina in high school.
Crompton’s favorite target is senior receiver Lucas Taylor, who leads the team in catches (12) and receiving yards (169).
Another man he’ll be looking for is sophomore Gerald Jones, who has hauled in seven passes for 79 yards this season and two touchdowns. Jones is a dynamic playmaker in the open field and the Volunteers will also utilize his speed on kickoff and punt returns. He’s averaging 38 yards per return on kickoffs and 19.5 on punt returns.
The Gators’ will definitely be keeping an eye on the Vols’ version of Brandon James.
On defense for the Florida Gators, their undisputed leader is junior linebacker Brandon Spikes. He is currently tied for the team lead in tackles (11) and has 1.5 tackles for loss. He’s one of the best linebackers college football has to offer and it will be a treat to watch him on Saturday. Lookout for number 51.
Junior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham has come on strong as of late for the Gator defense, he is tied for the team lead in tackles (11), has racked up 2.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1 forced fumble already!
Defensive back Joe Haden will look to cause problems for Crompton once he attacks the air, he already has eight tackles and one fumble recovery on the season. Ahmad Black is a sophomore safety who has stepped up big for the Gator defense early, picking off two passes this season.
Defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap was one of the most highly touted members of Florida’s recruiting class and I’d look for him to have a big season as the year progresses. This Florida defense has looked extremely sharp in their first two games, only allowing 13 points total in two games.
Quarterback Jonathan Crompton has all the potential in the world. If he ever played up to that potential, it would be a thing of beauty. He’s struggled early on this season and I can’t see him performing any better against a stiff Gator defense that’s only allowed 13 points so far this season.
The Vols’ strength lies in their running game, which is ranked in the top 20th in the country, racking up over 221 yards per game. The Gators’ defense has only allowed a stifling 60.5 yards per game on the ground. The match up of this game will likely be won and lost in that area. Tennessee’s offensive line must be able to move the pile and help the Vols running backs find space against the Gators.
I can’t see the Tennessee defense stopping Tim Tebow and the Gators high-powered attack, although Miami did an excellent job for three quarters last week. Percy Harvin will be a difference maker that will cause problems all day long for the Vols. If he says he is ready to be unleashed, I’d be very afraid if I was a Volunteer fan.
Percy Harvin at full speed is flat out unstoppable and the Vols will find out on Saturday. Their only chance to stay in this one is to force some interceptions with their ball-hawking secondary, which has seven interceptions already. I think Tennessee stays in this one for a half until Florida pulls away in the second half. Speed, speed, and more speed. Florida has it all over the place and on Saturday it will be in full display.
A healthy Percy Harvin is simply lethal for opposing teams.
The pick : Florida 31 Tennessee 17