Good old Rocky Top, “Floppy Top” Tennessee.
It’s been 11 straight years since the Volunteers have heard their school’s song play at the end of a showdown with Florida. And this week the Gators players, (who were in elementary school when James Wilhoit kicked a last second game winner for the Vols) made sure to drive home the point, that the Gators own this “rivalry”.
Here’s some of the Gators musings from this week.
Ahmad Fullwood on what makes this a rivalry; “Them thinking they can beat us.”
Quincy Wilson made the most bulletin board material this week with quotes like; “We have a message from DBU (Defensive Backs University) for Tennessee, you ever seen a duck pull a truck? A duck don’t pull a truck.”
That has to be the biggest head scratcher quote in years, maybe since Steve Spurrier said “You can’t spell Citrus without U-T.” In an odd way it was a gutsy insinuation to make by Wilson, considering a big chunk of the Gators’ Tennessee teflon will be missing.
Quarterback Luke Del Rio will miss the game with a sprained knee, meaning Austin Appleby will make his first start. Everyone on the Gators side of the ball wants to point out Appleby and Del Rio were neck and neck in competition during fall camp. But I don’t care how good Appleby looked, there’s nothing like making your first with your new team in a hostile SEC road environment. Tennessee is salivating put Smokey’s teeth in to some gator tail for the first time since 2005.
3 Keys for the Gators at Neyland:
POUND THE ROCK: The Gator have shown they possess a 4-headed monster at running back with Jordan Scarlett, Mark Thompson, Lamical Perine and Jordan Cronkite. Each back is averaging over 4.7-yards per carry. While most of those averages were earned playing cupcakes like UMass and North Texas, Florida will have to utilize their rushing attack to take the heat off of Appleby. Holding on to the ball will be critical for the Gators. The Volunteers have been very successful this season at forcing fumbles. Tennessee enters the game leading the SEC with 5 fumble recoveries.
RUSH THE PASSER: Jabari Zuniga has been a beast for a Gators’ defense, which leads the nation with 16 sacks. Keeping Joshua Dobbs in between the tackles will be priority to allow Zuniga and Caleb Brantley time to get in to Tennessee’s backfield.
It’s no surprise really with the talented group Defensive Coordinator Geoff Collins controls, the Gators have the top rated Total Defense in the country. The Secondary with Jalen “Teez” Tabor and Wilson will get their chance to put their money with their mouth is. Tabor took shots at the Vols during SEC Media Days, now we’ll see if Dobbs will be willing to take shots at Tabor.
EYES ON APPLEBY: This won’t be Purdue, nor a half empty “Swamp.” Neyland Stadium will have 100,000 rabid fans screaming in this SEC East showdown. Vols Head Coach Butch Jones knows Applby’s capabilities all too well, recruiting the former Boilermaker turned Gators quarterback out of high school.
If you go back and watch Appleby while at Purdue, you see a signal caller who at times got his signals crossed. Over his past two seasons in West Lafayette he threw for more interceptions than touchdowns. Expect Gators Head Coach Jim McElwain to keep the reigns tight on Appleby with a sized down playbook.
Odds and Ends:
Antonio Callaway could go on Saturday after sitting out last week with a quadriceps injury. McElwain said of his star wide receiver “He’s moving around pretty good.”
Eddy Pinero will get a true SEC kicking test on the road in a loud environment. His first SEC game against Kentucky yielded unsavory results going just one of three in field goal opportunities. The JUCO transfer, who’s shown a zest for celebrating, will need to keep his cool and just do his job in a deafening Neyland.
With both the Gators (3-0) and Volunteers (3-0) undefeated, the winner will have the early advantage toward representing the SEC East division in Atlanta for the title game.
Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday
The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.
The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:
Coast to coast❗
🐻 at 🐊 2026
🐊 at 🐻 2027#GoGators
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) February 7, 2020
A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.
With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.
As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.
Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.
It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.
Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.
Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools
National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.
The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of former DB C.J. Henderson.
Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.
The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.
Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?
Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.
The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.
Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.
Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.