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Florida running back Dameon Pierce runs past the Colorado State defense on his way to a 68-yard touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Florida Gators Football Preview: Tennessee An Early Cornerstone Game in Mullen’s Tenure

The Florida Gators and the Tennessee Volunteers have many similarities as Week 4 of the college football season is upon us.

They’re two programs with first-year head coaches, a 2-1 record and Saturday represents a must-win game for both teams.

Dan Mullen and Jeremy Pruitt’s teams will duke it out under the lights at Neyland Stadium. Both squads will look to make early impressions on the SEC.

In the build up to Saturday’s SEC matchup, Mullen couldn’t help but note the similarities between the two programs.

Gators get needed reinforcements on defense

Florida’s defense can potentially look forward to the return of two players that will help Todd Grantham’s unit: freshman linebacker David Reese and redshirt sophomore C.J. McWilliams.

Reese (ankle) has missed the first three games of the season, but his return could allow Florida’s defense to be more physical in Knoxville. McWilliams’ return should also help cover for the loss of corner Marco Wilson in the short-term.

Sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has been very efficient early in the season, and he’s yet to turn the ball over through the air. Yet, Pruitt’s offense is at its best when they’re running the ball effectively.

The Volunteer’s sophomore running back, Ty Chandler, went for 158 rushing yards on just 12 carries last week. Sophomore Tim Jordan is still the team’s leading rusher and will continue to feature.

Pruitt spoke about the respect he has for Mullen and the way he coaches his teams.

Florida’s first road game of the season will also be the toughest test of the season for Todd Grantham’s defense. He and Mullen will hope his team’s physicality has improved in the last two weeks.

What to watch for: Florida’s offense versus Tennessee’s defense

Surely Mullen, quarterback Feleipe Franks and the rest of the Gators’ offense can admit that they’re yet to play to their best this season.

Florida will be without running back Malik Davis after the sophomore running back broke his foot against Colorado State.

This will offer an opportunity for junior Lamical Perine and freshman Dameon Pierce to gain touches on Saturday. Jordan Scarlett will likely act as the lead back, but Mullen has shown that he doesn’t shy away from using any of his backs.

Perine spoke about some of the things Mullen and the coaching staff have preached to him.

Tennessee’s defense has had a tough time forcing turnovers, just four total, so Florida should look to gain so momentum in their attack. Like Tennessee, Mullen’s offense is at its best when they’re balanced and physical at the point of attack.

Both quarterbacks have also been steady up until now, and this game could very well be decided by the one that makes a big play late in the game.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM will have coverage of Florida and Tennessee starting at 3 p.m.

 

About Edgar Chavero

Sports media and management student at the University of Florida. Content creator for ESPN 98.1 FM/ 850 AM WRUF.

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