Matchup Breakdown: Jalen Hurd vs. Florida defense
“I don’t think he can hang with us. He’s a good athlete, but we’ve got a whole defense coming for him.”
Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis left Tennessee tailback Jalen Hurd with plenty of bulletin board material on Wednesday. The sophomore linebacker, who will face Hurd and Tennessee this weekend in Neyland Stadium, believes his Gators defense will present a tough test for the standout freshman. Davis is confident that Florida has the right game plan to match the size and speed of Tennessee’s young running back.
“He’s physical. He’s fast, but he doesn’t have top end speed. We have to come downhill, we have to hit him early. We have to let him know what it is and we have to welcome him to the SEC.”
Hurd enters as the Vols’ leading rusher with 328 yards and two touchdowns on 72 attempts. He is averaging 82 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry. Hurd has surpassed his previous career-best totals in each game this season, rushing for 119 yards against No. 13 Georgia last Saturday.
“Georgia was a big test for him, that’s a physical team,” Davis said. “But I feel like we have more to offer for him. We’re going to come down, we’re going to talk to him a little bit with the pads. We’re not going to talk with our mouth, we’re going to hit him and get back and get lined up.
Florida fields a talented defensive unit that looks to pressure Hurd in the backfield and at the line of scrimmage. Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. leads the Gators with 3.0 tackles for loss and is averaging one per game. Linebacker Neiron has 2.5 tackles for loss and 15 tackles for the season.
Veteran linebackers Michael Taylor and Antonio Morrison both lead the team with 21 tackles. The Gators defense has combined for six forced fumbles, which they will look to add to facing the freshman running back.
It will be a tall task for Hurd to continue his progress against a tough, physical Florida defense. However, the freshman has proven his hype thus far and should provide an equally tough matchup for the veteran unit.