Will Marquez North see a breakout performance against Florida?
Marquez North has struggled in recent weeks. After enjoying a breakout freshman campaign and several preseason honors, North hasn’t seen the success many expected in 2014. The sophomore has 188 yards and three touchdowns on 17 receptions, averaging just 47 yards per game and 4.3 receptions.
North’s best performance came in Week 2 against Arkansas State. He recorded a season-best 68 yards and two touchdowns on four catches. However, the win against the Aggies saw an injury to No. 2 wideout Von Pearson. In his teammates absence, North has drawn double coverage and struggled to match his Week 2 success.
With Pearson practicing this week for the first time since suffering his injury, North should see more open space as Tennessee’s primary target.
“Everyone has a big impact on our offense,” North said of Pearson’s potential return. “I would say teams are playing pretty well in coverage. I’m not sure about double coverage over the top though. But it will be good for our receivers to get Von [Pearson] and Josh Smith back.”
North has also seen an increase in playing time in his second season. He is averaging above 20 more snaps than in 2013 and has made an adjustment to the overall game tempo.
“The tempo has changed dramatically since last year, the tempo wears everybody out,” North said. “The tempo is a good thing for us because we are a very well conditioned team. It just wears people out in the fourth quarter.”
North will need a big game facing Vernon Hargreaves III, one of the conference’s top defensive backs, as well as a tough Florida secondary.
“It’s going to be really important to protect the football,” North said. “They’re really good at playing aggressive and taking the ball. So it’s going to be a good challenge to go in there and keep the ball from falling on the ground.”
Tennessee will host Florida at noon on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.