When Tennessee travels to Gainesville to take on No. 16 Florida, they’ll see something new this season.


Led by new defensive-minded coach Will Muschamp, the Gators (2-0), always known for their scathing defense, have only given up three points this season, and shut out UAB last week, 39-0.

On top of that, Florida has only allowed 101 yards of rushing in those two games.

“Our guys just have to figure out how to block them,” UT coach Derek Dooley said of Florida’s big defensive line. “I don’t know if our five can block their four. If our five can’t block their four, it doesn’t matter what else you can do. We’re going to get whipped.”

Florida’s defensive line is talented, to say the least, even if they are young. Three sophomores make up the Gators’ front four: defensive end Ronald Powell (Rivals.com’s No. 1 recruit in 2010), Sharrif Floyd, who will give them a huge boost after missing out because of an NCAA suspension, was fourth in that class, and Dominique Easley was seventh. Redshirt senior Jaye Howard, a four-star recruit in 2007, rounds out the group.

Dooley said that Florida has “the most talented defensive line in the nation.”

Any extra time will be important for Tyler Bray and Tennessee’s offense, which has averaged 43.5 points a game. Bray and the passing game have been in the nation’s elite with 358 yards per game. He threw for a career-high 405 yards last week against Cincinnati.

Florida, which has won the last six meetings against the Vols, has held UT to 20 points or less in each of those games. The Vols lost 23-13 in their last trip to The Swamp in 2009.

“I see talent at all levels of their defense,” said Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. “From their D-line, the linebackers, the secondary. They are very good. I look around and try to find weaknesses in their physical abilities and I don’t see a lot of that. It will be quite a challenge for us.”

Despite the solid overall defense, Florida has only two sacks and no interceptions.

“We need to get better with our pass rush,” Gators defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. “In the UAB game, I think we could have gotten to the quarterback a whole lot more. They were releasing the ball pretty quick. We were coming with a lot of different pressures. They did a good job of keeping their quarterback clean.”

Tennessee may be able to take advantage of Florida’s secondary. The Gators lost safety Ahmad Black to graduation, and 2010 All-SEC cornerback Janoris Jenkins after Muschamp kicked him off the team in April after being arrested and charged for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

With 10 games started in 2010, redshirt junior Jeremy Brown is the most-tenured Florida CB, even though he missed back-to-back seasons with back issues.

On top of Florida’s youth, Vols wide receivers Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers, who stand at 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-3, respectively, will look to use height as an advantage. The Gators’ tallest secondary player is 6-foot-3.

For many on this young Volunteer squad, this will be their first trip to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, known to be one of the toughest environments in college football.

For Bray, it will be his first start outside the state of Tennessee.

“This is going to be our first big test for a lot of reasons,” Dooley said. “One is, of course, that you are on the road. Everything is different when you go on the road.

“The bigger thing on the road is when the other team is playing good and the team gets loud, we are going to have to work on things we have never worked on and don’t have a lot of game-ready operation on it, like silent snap counts and those kinds of things. It is going to be a challenge. All you can do — you have to go down there, you can’t be scared and you have to be prepared mentally and you can’t be held hostage to anything that has happened in the past. That’s how we are going to approach it.”