KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Derek Barnett entered the year with an outside shot at breaking Reggie White’s career sack-record (32) at Tennessee.
But after recording consecutive 10-sack seasons, the junior has been shutout over the first three games of 2016.
Expect that to change Saturday against Florida.
Although Barnett hasn’t notched a sack, the All-American pass rusher has played well for the Volunteers in recent weeks.
The junior defensive end wrecked havoc on Ohio, recording 5 tackles, 1 TFL and several hurries.
“If felt like he was getting back there every play,” defensive tackle Kendall Vickers said.
“I’m not surprised by what he can do on the field. He is a dog. That’s what we need out of him on Saturday.”
Coordinator Bob Shoop said opponents have schemed against Barnett early in the season, either using max-protection or throwing the ball under two seconds. Tennessee’s first year coordinator believes Barnett played his best game against Ohio and was just “a second away from having a couple big plays.”
Asked if Barnett is ready to really explode against Florida, Shoop smiled and responded, “I hope so.”
Florida doesn’t tout a world-beating offensive line, but its unit works well collectively and mostly avoids massive mistakes. The Gators have allowed just a single sack on the season — tied for No. 2 nationally.
However, an injury up front could provide an opening for Barnett & Co., as UF will likely start a freshman right tackle in front of over 102,000 screaming yahoos. If the Volunteers are going to end their historic futility against Florida, they need an impact performance from Barnett.
“I’ve put it on the whole (defensive line) this week,” Shoop said.
“If we’re going to win this game, those guys are going to have to step up. They talk about the SEC being a line of scrimmage league, those guys are going to have to play well.”