Florida Week, the Swamp or Bust
Big Orange Report 9-12-11By Warner AgeeOne Way to Skin a CatOn a picture post card perfect, sun-splashed afternoon in Knoxville, the Tennessee Volunteers really did not need more than one way to skin a cat, a Bearcat that is. All it took to subdue Cincinnati was a masterpiece disguised as an offensive game plan by Jim Chaney and three amigos who are also known as Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers. While the Big Orange and a near capacity crowd basked in the warm glow of the September sun, Bearcat coach Butch Jones was probably wishing he had acquired a half dozen Kevlar umbrellas to hand out to his secondary as the laser guided football bombardment lit up the Cats brighter than the Times Square Christmas Tree. Bray, the sophomore trigger man from another sunny spot, California, now leads the entire nation in yards per attempt, yards per completion and is tied for the NCAA top spot in touchdown tosses with seven. He is also among the leaders in total passing yardage and completion percentage. Not bad for a true sophomore who arrived on campus looking more like a six foot, six inch fence post than a future star quarterback. Tennessee tight ends joined the offensive flash mob with a total of eight catches, six for Mychal Rivera and two by true freshman Brendan Downs, the pride of Tennessee High School in Bristol. That other Rogers, Zach also added to the diversity by grabbing a touchdown pass while working out of the slot. Not to be outdone, the Tennessee defense rebounded from a couple of early hiccups to limit the high geared Bearcat attack to only three points out of seven consecutive offensive possessions. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox’s nickel package seemed to confuse and irritate Cincy quarterback Zach Collaras, the Big East’s offensive player of the year in 2010. The Swamp BeckonsIf Tennessee is getting ready to step up in the level of competition, so too are the Florida Gators. Florida brushed aside two woeful teams, Florida Atlantic and Alabama-Birmingham, yielding only a field goal in the two contests. Much like the Volunteers, the Gators will be starting a bevy of young players. Make no mistake however, this Florida team has as much speed and athletic ability as any squad UT will face this season. Key matchupsJim Chaney vs. Charlie Weis—If Weis is an offensive genius then Chaney may be a genius-in-waiting. Both offensive coordinators seek weak spots in an opposing defense and then go about the business of exploiting it until the opponent can stop them. Chaney may have a slight advantage simply because Weis has only the two games vs. spread offenses to breakdown when formulating his plan. Tennessee’s young players vs. The Swamp—If the Volunteers can survive the first six to eight minutes of the contest without getting rattled, then things will slow down and calm down. The Vols can’t afford many mental errors, penalties or turnovers in this one either if they are to have a chance to win it in the fourth quarter. Hunter and Rogers vs. Marcus Roberson—You can bet your sweet bippy that the two Vol receivers will go after Roberson, a freshman corner starting only his third game for the Gators. Another favorable matchup might pit one of the tall and fast Vols against freshman safety De’Ante Saunders. Watch for thisThe Gators are going to want to come after Bray with one more man than Tennessee has blockers. Thus far, the Vol offensive front has done a marvelous job of protecting their meal ticket, but Florida’s speed off the edge could be a problem. However, the Gators have only registered two sacks this year against the aforementioned weak opposition. Point of attackTennessee has also struggled to sack the quarterbacks in the first two games, but that was against spread offenses that get the ball out quickly or roll the quarterback away from danger. This week, the Vol pass rushers get to go hunting for a quarterback who will be in a stationary pocket. The Big Orange must get an inside rush from Malik Jackson and some consistent pressure off the edges by Jacques Smith and freshman sensation and Florida native Curt Maggitt. Secret WeaponPoole and Lane have demonstrated an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and that will be where Chaney looks to for assistance in slowing down the Florida pass rush. Both tailbacks might get a chance to catch a few out in space and then make yards after the reception.
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Florida Week, the Swamp or Bust