Florida opponent previews – Tennessee and LSU

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Coming off a tough showdown on the road at Alabama, the Florida Gators will have a bye week before entering Knoxville, Tennessee, and the not-so-friendly confines of Neylend Stadium when it squares off against the Tennessee Volunteers.

Florida will be facing Tennessee for the 44th time in program history, looking to extend its series winning streak to 10-straight games dating back to 2005.

The Volunteers are looking to find some momentum in the second year under head coach Butch Jones, the program’s third coach in five seasons. Under Jones, Tennessee upset then-No. 11 South Carolina 23-21 last season, one of its few highlights of the 2013 campaign. The Vols also lost four-straight games, however, with blowout losses to Alabama, Missouri and Auburn as well as a close defeat at the hands of Vanderbilt.

Head-to-Head

FLORIDA GATORS TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp (Year: 4) Head Coach: Butch Jones (Year: 2)
2013 Record: 4-8 (3-5) 2013 Record: 5-7 (2-6)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Common Opponents: 1-4 Common Opponents: 2-3
Scoring Offense: T-112th (18.8 ppg) Scoring Offense: 94th (23.8 ppg)
Scoring Defense: 15th (21.1 ppg) Scoring Defense: T-78th (29.0 ppg)

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Gameday: No. 18 Florida Gators vs. Tennessee

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather: 88°F (feels like 91°F), partly cloudy, winds SSE at 4 mph
Time: 3:30 p.m. EDT

Tickets: Best deals on Florida Gators tickets starting at $50 on TiqIQ

TV: CBS (Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Tracy Wolfson)
SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: CBSSports.com | Mobile Video: CBS Sports app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

No. 18/19 FLORIDA GATORS TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Butch Jones
Record: 1-1 Record: 2-1
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -16 | O/U: 47

KEEP UP WITH THE GATORS

Busy during the week? Miss a feature, story or post on OnlyGators.com? No worries. Catch up on what you missed via the links below!

Latest Depth Chart | Story: RB Matt Jones feeling “regular” again | Story: Team confident in QB Jeff Driskel – to a point | OC Brent Pease talks offense | Story: RG Jon Halapio is “anxious” but ready to return | Story: Perfection not yet achieved by defense | Notes: Preparing for Tennessee

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is looking to extend its eight-game winning streak against Tennessee (longest in the series’ history), which dates back to 2005. The Gators are 23-19 all-time against the Volunteers and hold an 11-9 record in Gainesville. UF is also ahead 8-2 in the last 10 meetings and 21-6 against UT since 1976.
» The teams have been slated to open the SEC schedule against each other nearly every season since 1996. Florida and Tennessee were each other’s second SEC opponent in 2012. In 2001, the game was pushed back due to the events of Sept. 11.
» The Gators and Vols will square off at 3:30 p.m. on CBS for the eighth time in the last nine years and play on the network for the 17th time in the last 18 showdowns. UF-UT was skipped over in 2012 and broadcast on ESPN at 6:00 p.m.
» Florida has failed to open the season 2-0 for the first time since 2005.
» Tennessee is 1-23 against top 25 teams since 2008 and has lost 17-straight games when squaring off with ranked opponents.
» The Gators are 13-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards (6-9 when rushing for fewer than 150 yards). Florida is also 15-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 11-3 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 13-3 when scoring first (6-6 when an opponent scores first) and 15-1 when leading at the half (4-8 when tied or trailing at the break).
» UF is 15-2 against unranked opponents under Muschamp with its second loss against such teams coming on Sept. 7 to Miami.
» Against the Canes, the Gators had two wide receivers gain more than 98 yards in the same game for the first time since Nov. 3, 2007.
» Florida held Toledo to six points in its season opener, the sixth time the team has held an opponent without a touchdown under Muschamp.
» The Gators rank first nationally in time of possession (78.0 minutes) and third down defense (.083), second in first down defense (22 allowed) and third in total defense (208.5 yards) and rushing defense (50.0 yards).
» Florida has forced at least one turnover in 13-straight games.
» The Gators have forced the most interceptions among SEC teams this century (350).
» Vols wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni was a former Gators assistant at the same position for one year under Urban Meyer (2010). Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie was a ball carrier for Florida from 2001-05.

Read about the injuries and absences and much more…after the break!
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9/18: Muschamp updates Gators injuries, redshirts

No. 18/19 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp made his scheduled appearance Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly coaches teleconference, as did Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones. Both touched on a number of topics concerning his respective team heading into Saturday’s game.

INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp explained that junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) and redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) were both “a little gimpy” during practice on Tuesday but “should be OK” on Saturday and active for the game as the Gators take on the Volunteers. He also noted that junior quarterback Jeff Driskel (knee) and redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio have looked “really good” in practice and said Florida is healthy heading into the game.

FRESHMEN / REDSHIRT BREAKDOWN

Asked to go in-depth on which freshmen Florida may be redshirting this season, Muschamp began discussing which players have already contributed for the Gators and others that could before the season is out. Below is a breakdown of the freshmen that have played, may see action or are already headed toward the redshirt designation.

Active (9): Running back Kelvin Taylor; wide receivers Demarcus Robinson, Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson; cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, linebackers Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis and Daniel McMillian; safety Keanu Neal

Muschamp said Taylor is “a guy that we will continue to try to get involved with the offense,” while he considers Hargreaves “a starter for us at this time based on how he’s playing and performing and producing.”

Next up (1): Defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick

Redshirt likely (12): DTs Caleb Brantley and Antonio Riles; punter Johnny Townsend; wide receivers Alvin Bailey and Marqui Hawkins; defensive lineman Joey Ivie; QB Max Staver; RB Adam Lane; offensive linemen Cameron Dillard, Octavius Jackson, Roderick Johnson and Trevon Young

Medical redshirt likely (4): Defensive backs Marcell Harris (knee) and Nick Washington (shoulder); LB Matt Rolin (ACL); DL Jordan Sherit (ACL)

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2013 SEC Media Day Quotables: Coaches and players speak on Florida and other hot topics

The Florida Gators received their fair share of headlines at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Media Days on Tuesday but plenty of other coaches and players made waves as well for their comments and opinions.

Check out what Florida’s contingent had to say in the multiple links below.

Florida Gators at 2013 SEC Media Days: Main Post – News & Notes: Muschamp’s shot at Meyer, injuries, players, coaches | Game times vs. Toledo, Miami set | Muschamp: I’m “100% responsible” for players | Easley steals the show | VIDEOS: Florida players have fun interviewing each other

COACHES

» South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier on paying players $3,600-$3,900 per season in addition to their scholarships: “I’m going to keep fighting for our guys. I don’t know what will come. If President [Barack] Obama would say, ‘Spurrier, you and those coaches need to quit fighting for your players,’ that they get enough, they get enough full scholarship, then I’ll shut up about it. But I just believe that these athletes, because of the enormous amount [of money they earn for the schools], just a little bit to help out with their parents watching games and so forth. Okay, that was our little talk about expenses. This is not ‘pay for play.’ Please don’t say, ‘Spurrier says pay for play.’ This is just expense money. I saw the other day this year, the NFL rookies, the minimum is $405,000, NFL rookie. And a third year kid, $630,000. That’s pay for play. Don’t disguise or say $300 for expenses for a game, that’s not pay for play. Just some expense money for our guys to live a little bit better, and their parents, guardians, whatever. Us coaches, if it was a financial burden for our universities, our coaches all offered to pay for it, all 14. It came up to $270,000, $280,000 a year for the coaches. We’d pay it all. We want our players to get a little bit more than they get.”

» Spurrier on if he would turn Florida in for a recruiting violation in like Urban Meyer did: “Like that? Probably not that [smiling]. If they were obviously doing something [on purpose], we were obviously doing something [on purpose], I would hope they’d turn us in. Usually go through the league office is the way. Yeah, we don’t turn a lot of people in anyway. You can’t ever condone breaking the rules on purpose, though. We don’t condone that with anybody.”

» Spurrier on staying on longer with the Gamecocks than he did with the Gators: “I didn’t think about that. I did think I could go eight, nine, ten years. I was at a booster club. … I said my plan and goal is to be the winningest coach here. It was only 65 wins. If we could average about eight a year, maybe win nine one year, I could get to 65. It worked out that we got 66. Last two years we’ve added up well. … I have an excellent coaching staff. I got guys that can recruit, coach, do everything. It’s not a stressful job for me as maybe some coaches have. Summertime we get away from it a bit, get refreshed, ready to go during the season. Burnout is not something I’m going to get, not unless we go real bad. It can go real bad if you think it can’t. I know it can go real bad if we don’t watch ourselves. Hopefully it won’t.”

Continue Reading » 2013 SEC Media Day Quotables: Coaches and players speak on Florida and other hot topics

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FOUR BITS: Brantley, Azzanni, Riley, Tebow

1 » Known as “The Future” and “The Next Tom Brady” by redshirt junior guard Carl Johnson and many of his Florida Gators teammates, redshirt sophomore quarterback John Brantley’s time is now. “He’s going to be really good,” Johnson said when asked about Brantley by the Orlando Sentinel. With everyone focusing on who is departing Gainesville, FL, perhaps it is time to focus on the bright future ahead for some younger Gators. Though he will likely never match what senior QB Tim Tebow has done, Brantley doesn’t have to in order to be successful in Orange and Blue. “I’m not really trying to match [Tebow’s legacy],” Brantley said. “I just want to come out and not miss a beat when my number’s called and hopefully win championships as a starter if I get that opportunity. I don’t have to go in there thinking I have to do everything and make every play.”

2 » Brand new Florida wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni has removed his name from the candidate list for the Central Michigan Chippewas head coach job. “I will be staying in Florida and coaching with the Gators next year,” Azzanni told the Morning Sun. Azzanni did not tell the paper if he was contacted for an interview or offered the position, “but there was a possibility for him to go to Cincinnati with Butch Jones following Urban Meyer’s retirement talk last week,” according to the paper. “We’re always staying busy,” Azzanni said. “There is never a day off in college football. [Winning the Sugar Bowl] felt good. There are so many talented players on the team and everyone really welcomed me in. It was a great experience.”

3 » Now that five-star safety Matt Elam has decommitted from the Gators and joined the Florida State Seminoles, Florida is putting the full court press on four-star defensive back recruit Dietrich Riley (La Canada, CA). Participating in the Under Armour All-America game, Riley heard from plenty of UF commitments that he was wanted in the Orange and Blue next year. “Coach Meyer is still recruiting me hard and they told me I’m their safety to get now after Elam,” Riley told Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel. “They’ve been recruiting me since October and they’ve been telling me to sit tight and be patient and we’ll let you know which guys to go the NFL.” Meyer’s recent announcements have not swayed Riley from including the Gators in his top three. “I understand that he has to take care of his health first […] that’s primary, his family and his health. He’s doing what’s best for the program,” he said. “I talked with him and he said he plans on returing to the school and he’s going to be a Florida Gator no matter what. He’s not going to go to any other school, so I’m happy about that.”

4 » Speaking of Tebow, he should retire and never play football again. Well, that’s the opinion of at least one man – CBSSports.com national columnist Gregg Doyel. Yup, Doyel believes Tebow will never reach a higher point in his career than he already has, is destined to fail in the NFL and should not even try to make it on the next level. Chomping: I guess I should have quit writing when I got my first article published by a major newspaper or when I won my first writing award, based on Doyel’s logic. At least there is one college football writer who refuses to bet against Tebow.

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A whirlwind for Azzanni as Meyer still searches

Less than 24 hours after Billy Gonzales stepped down from his post to become the passing game coordinator for the LSU Tigers, Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer had Zach Azzanni locked up as his new wide receivers coach. Soon after that, Azzanni did a 360 on the recruiting trail, leaving the Central Michigan Chippewas‘s prospects behind and focusing on the Gators’ targets.

For the past week, Azzanni has been feeling his way around – going on recruiting trips, meeting his new coaching mates, getting to know Florida’s current players and finding a place to live as he survives out of his suitcase. On Friday, he participated in his first practice and is still trying to get his feet on the ground. “It’s been a blur to me,” Azzanni told the press Friday. “It happened fast. I got a call last week and got off the road for Central Michigan and got on the road for the University of Florida. This is a dream job and a chance of a lifetime to come and coach with the defending National Champions, and I’m going to take it.”

Since he left CMU, Azzanni’s former head coach Butch Jones also vacated his position, replacing Brian Kelly as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats. The media immediately named Azzanni one of the top candidates to replace Jones, even though he had just accepted his new position with the Gators. While he could very well be under consideration, Azzanni has yet to be contacted about the position.

“Hey, that’s flattering,” he said of the speculation. “It’s my alma mater and a great place. But I’m a Gator and I’m here, let’s go. I have not been contacted by them. It’s just rumors and things I can’t control. I don’t know [if they will contact me]. I’m not going to speculate. I’m here wearing a Gator on my shirt and coaching the wideouts as hard as I can.”

Cornerbacks coach Lance Bedford and quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler have also been rumored as candidates for head coaching and coordinator jobs, but Meyer said he has not yet been contacted by any schools asking permission to speak with them. “I just hired a guy and I hear his name is up [for a head coaching job],” Meyer said. “I’ve been blessed with some great coaches. Eventually coach [Steve] Addazio will be a head coach. Charlie [Strong], you knew that was a matter of time. We just have to keep going. This is Florida and you should have great coaches.”

As far as filling Strong’s open defensive coordinator position, Meyer said he has not achieved much on that front. “I’ve been on the road. I just got back,” he said. “I’ve been working the phones and getting bombarded [by interview requests]. There are a lot of things to consider. I don’t want to comment [on who I might hire]. I’m still at the ground stages of it. It’s the puzzle, the alignment.”

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SIX BITS: Juniors in NFL, Henderson’s visit, Loeffler, Azzanni, Bell, Kiper’s Big Board

1 » According to Florida Gators strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, the team’s liaison with the NFL, 8-10 juniors have submitted their paperwork for evaluation by the league’s Draft Advisory Board. One can assume those names include cornerback Joe Haden, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, tight end Aaron Hernandez, center Maurkice Pouncey and guard Mike Pouncey. Others who may have submitted their information include safeties Ahmad Black and Major Wright, defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh and offensive linemen Carl Johnson and Marcus Gilbert.

2 » Five-star offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson (St. Paul, MN), considered by many recruiting services to be the No. 1 overall recruit in the country, will be taking his official visit Gainesville, FL, this weekend. Henderson is also seriously considering the USC Trojans, Ohio State Buckeyes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

3 » Florida quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, who has only been on the job one year in Gainesville, is considered a top candidate for the Central Michigan Chippewas and Buffalo Bulls head coaching jobs vacated by Butch Jones and Turner Gill, respectively. Some believe a year with next season’s starting quarterback John Brantley could earn Loeffler a much better gig just 12 months from now.

4 » Another name being thrown around the CMU job is brand new Gators wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who joined the program one week ago after the departure of Billy Gonzales to the LSU Tigers. Suffice to say that Florida head coach Urban Meyer would be none to pleased to be forced to replace a second WR coach in a matter of days.

5 » Former Gators QB and current Jacksonville Dolphins head coach Kerwin Bell met with Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong on Wednesday about the Cardinals’ vacant offensive coordinator position. Though working with Strong could be considered a promotion of sorts, Bell may prefer being his own boss at Jacksonville. “Kerwin really likes running his own program and calling the shots,” his athletic director Alan Verlander told The Florida Times-Union. “Unless they throw a lot of money at him, I’m about 95 percent certain that he will be at JU next year.”

6 » ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s latest NFL Draft Big Board has been published and little has changed for Florida’s players. Dunlap crept up one spot from his season-low of No. 17 to No. 16, with Kiper saying his “physical tools are off the charts” and that he “has unlimited upside.” Also on the list are Haden, a “polished cover corner with tackling ability to match,” who held strong at No. 7, and Hernandez, who also popped up a spot to No. 18.. Kiper says Hernandez has “great hands and excellent run-after-catch skills for a TE.” Noticeably absent from the board for a third-straight week is senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who last appeared at No. 25 on Nov. 18.

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