KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Florida Gators have played the nation’s No. 122 schedule over the first three weeks of the season, but Tennessee head coach Butch Jones doesn’t care.
“This is probably the best defense we have faced since I’ve been here,” Jones said.
“What can I say about them defensively?”
Under second-year coordinator Geoff Collins, the Gators defense has allowed under 200 yards to all three opponents in 2016. They tout the nation’s No. 1 total defense, No. 1 scoring defense and lead the country in sacks with 16.
Last week, they shutout North Texas and allowed a measly 53 yards.
“They make you earn every yard you get,” Jones said.
“They held a football team to 53 yards of total offense. I’ve never head of that before.”
On Monday, Jones rattled off all of Florida’s defensive accomplishments, and when asked why the unit is so salty he stated, “The formula is simple. They have great players. They have great players who are explosive and run very well. They like contact and they are playing with a lot of confidence.”
Florida rotates up to 9 defensive linemen, while its linebacker corps (future first-round pick Jarrad Davis and athletic junior Alex Anzalone) and secondary (All-Americans Jalen Tabor and Marcus Maye, as well as Quincy Wilson) are as good as any in the country.
Meanwhile, Tennessee’s offense has yet to truly get going in 2016.
And it won’t get any easier on Saturday.
Inconsistent offensive line play and questionable playcalling has thwarted any potential progress, as the Volunteers are averaging just 5.1 yards per play in three games — good for No. 100 nationally. Blocking has been a persistent problem, as a UT’s turnstile offensive line has allowed 20 tackles for loss and 7 sacks already this season.
“It sounds simple, but it’s all 11 individuals executing as one,” Jones sad.
“Everyone is one out of 11. When you go back and review the video, you see a lot of good things. When all 11 individuals work together, we’re a pretty good football teams. … But we’ve had way too many individual breakdowns — whether that be an assignment, fundamental, technique. That really hinders execution.”