Tennessee is in pieces. Surely not the “panic button” is slammed, but it is still “slight cause for concern” slammed towards the most important game of the season so far: against Florida.
All initial reports suggest that Cedric Tillman and Jabari Small will be fine after both exited early in Tennessee’s 63-6 win over Akron in week three. Keeping them off the pitch in a blast was just a precaution and the right decision for coach Josh Heupel to produce.
But Small’s upper-body injury is nerve-wracking regarding his long-term future as RB1 from Tennessee. Small has had shoulder problems dating back to last season and his apparent worsening is not ideal before the Vols play their first conference game.
Dylan Sampson, the No. 3 behind Small and Jaylen Wright, who also came out early in week 3. The Vols will likely have Small backs against the Gators, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are only 2 running backs on the roster that Tennessee can confidently bring back to the 100%. equally healthy.
Still, in the short term, Vols fans shouldn’t be worried. All eyes are on the Gators and, despite injuries, Tennessee will be racing all over Florida in week 4. There’s no reason the Vols don’t rush for at least 200 yards against this Florida defense.
Here’s what I’m talking about.
Josh Heupel’s offense may be known for his fast-paced, dink-and-dunk, and spread-play style of play before the 50-yard killing blow, but it lacks a basic reality. Offensive and trendy coordinator Alex Golesh has always had a running mindset.
Heupel oversaw 16 games as Tennessee’s head coach. In all but 3, there were more attempts to hurry than attempts to pass. And in most of those 13 cases, he was on a margin of 15 or more. The 3 games in which Tennessee did not attempt more races were against Alabama and Georgia in 2021 and Pitt in 2022: three teams from elite to elite play from the top 7.
Tennessee are 7-0 in games where they rush for more than 4.75 yards to fetch and 3-6 when they don’t. The Florida Gators are allowing opponents to carry 4.76 yards so far this season. This is the second-worst average in the SEC and the seventh-worst among the Power 5 teams.
Florida allowed a 6.2-yard carryover against South Florida last week and 5.9 yards against Utah in Week 1. The Gators did well against Kentucky (who were without Chris Rodriguez Jr.), allowing only 1.8 yards of carryover. And there’s another factor that should worry Gator manager Billy Napier. Cam Rising of Utah and Gerry Bohanon of the USF are double threat quarterbacks, while Will Levis of Kentucky is not.
Tennessee Online Sports Betting officially launched on November 1, 2020, and many of the largest bookmakers are active and operating in the volunteer state. Tennessee is just one of the few SEC states with legalized sports betting.
Bohanon rushed for 6.8 yards to fetch against the Gators, while Rising rushed for 13 yards to fetch in 7 attempts. The Gators problem is similar to that of Tennessee last season: they didn’t contain the quarterback scamper.
It’s not that running backs don’t have fun against Florida too. In the first quarter of last weekend, the USF converted a 3rd-and-18. On a 21-yard run.
There’s more. The Gators missed senior linebacker Ventrell Miller on Saturday and there were no updates on his status for the Tennessee game. If Florida doesn’t have Miller, multiply everything you see here by 2.
Florida Front 7 appears to have been thrown out of the way. Here’s a look from a play on the Bulls score in week 3:
⚡️ Fake Launch G / Y QB Counter pic.twitter.com/lreBGHCUHA
– Firstdown_XOs (@FirstdownXOs) September 19, 2022
Linebacker Amari Burney (# 2) was out of position because outside linebacker Brenton Cox (# 1) did not choose the running back option. Regardless of whether Small plays Saturday for Tennessee might be irrelevant, Hendon Hooker should have a field day.
Even the Gators were fooled by a fake transfer from Utah.
Cam Rising 26 yard run !! pic.twitter.com/iiDuFradpz
– Alessio? (@ dbs408) September 4, 2022
Heupel and Golesh haven’t done many Hooker-designed runs yet, and this in itself is by design. No risk of injury and no reason to disclose your full playbook to non-conference opponents like Akron and Ball State. However, Tennessee has slowly begun to add the speed option to its 2022 arsenal.
Tennessee, adding this comedy to its arsenal seems almost unfair pic.twitter.com/Jc00S0AAkc
– zach ragan (@zachTNT) September 19, 2022
Tennessee obviously had this in their arsenal dating back to last season, but you haven’t seen it long before week 3 for a reason. Here is USF running the same game perfectly.
Florida fighting for her life against the USF in The Swamp
The Gators are down 28-24 in the 4th
– that SEC podcast (@thatSECpodcast) September 18, 2022
Tennessee has strong receivers, one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks, and is playing a defensive front that has a lot of athleticism and talent. But it’s not a defensive front that can compete with the Vols right now.
Where Florida really shines on defense is against passing. The Gators stacked the box and pinned Bohanon in week 3, winning a tight match at the end. Despite all his success on the ground, Bohanon only completed 12 of his 28 passes for 112 yards against a passing run by the Gators. with bad intentions when it mattered.
The Gators also have a deep secondary which features 2 All-SEC and 1 All-American defenders in Jason Marshall. They have a talent to rival Tennessee’s vast offering of capable receivers.
It’s never that simple, and it’s always easier said than done. But this game seems to be a no-brainer. Establish the ride, sit back and watch.