Published September 13, 2012 - 7:50pm
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This is the third edition of our new series called Return to Gator Glory. Each week we will be highlighting a different key area the Gators will need to focus on as they try to make their way back up to the top of the SEC East.
Last week the Gators survived a physical game in College Station, but it wasn’t because they listened to me and caused more turnovers. They didn’t give up any turnovers, though, so I’ll call that a moral victory.
Florida still needs to greatly increase its turnover numbers and will have a much easier time doing so if the defense can improve in one area, the pass rush.
The Gators faced very fast paced offenses in their first two games. Both Bowling Green and Texas A&M effectively used three step drops and quick short passing routes to minimize the effect of Florida’s front seven.
The Gators only had one sack against the Falcons to go along with three quarterback hurries. Their sack total increased to three, with only one QB hurry against the Aggies, but, remember, that was against a quarterback making his first-ever start.
Florida’s front seven won’t have the luxury of facing an inexperienced quarterback this Saturday.
Tennessee’s Tyler Bray is arguably one of the nation’s top signal callers. Through two games he has thrown for an SEC leading 643 yards and six touchdowns, completing nearly 74 percent of his passes.
The Volunteer offense is quite different from the quick strike offenses the Gators faced to open the season. Deeper drop backs and routes are Tennessee’s bread and butter. Bray’s average yardage per pass attempt is 14.1 yards, but the average yardage on his touchdown passes are 31.2 yards per throw.
The deeper drop backs are going to give the Florida front seven more time to get into the backfield and disrupt the Volunteer passing game. Even with injuries to CB Cody Riggs and LB Jelani Jenkins, the Gators have more than enough depth in the defensive backfield to keep Tennessee’s wide receivers in check.
Last season against the Volunteers, Florida’s defense produced three sacks and six quarterback hurries. That day Bray averaged six yards per pass attempt, 13.3 yards per touchdown pass, and threw two interceptions.
The front seven kept constant pressure on the Volunteers which allowed the defensive backs to focus on their assignments; this will be even more important this season as Tennessee will be coming at Florida with offensive threats like wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson.
The Gators are going to need make Bray feel uncomfortable in the pocket early and often. Florida has a very talented defensive backfield, but it will be a long day on Rocky Top if Bray is allowed to operate in the backfield without any pressure from the Gator front seven.