Players Prepare for Florida

In a press conference today, some Vols talked about the rivalry with Florida.

Sophomore defensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie didn't give the Florida Gators any bulletin board material of their own, but he got his point across: talk is cheap.

"We all know what they have to say, just come 3:30 on Saturday, just about that action." 

There's no mistaking the animosity between these two teams.

"We know it's Florida, we know we're rivals, we know we pretty much don't like each other," said defensive lineman Kendal Vickers.

Then of course, there's the 11-game losing streak. Tennessee has not beaten Florida since 2004, not that you need to be reminded. And as much as the team seems to be treating this game like any other, that number sticks out, a blue and orange splinter in their foot.

"It's 11 games," Vickers said, "it would be impossible, I'd be lying to you if I said we didn't think about it, but every day, we're just trying to be a better team. It makes it fun when you get on the field, we can compete and try to end the streak."

That streak has come close to ending several times, this past year being one of the closest. After leading 27-14 with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Florida came back to win in the Swamp, 28-27. Even with moments like that, quarterback Josh Dobbs said the team is preparing and is ready for the Gators.

"We always have confidence going into each and every game," Dobbs said, "but at the end of the day, you have to go out and execute. Whatever happened last year has no effect on what happened this year."

When asked about how he is approaching his last Florida game in a Vols uniform, Josh Dobbs was as even keel as ever.

"It's a big opportunity for us as a team to go out, especially on a national stage and show what Tennessee football is."

The game against Florida is Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Neyland Stadium.


On the Florida secondary:

"Just throughout their secondary, they're a physical bunch, they play a lot of man coverage in the back end, and they enjoy their one-on-on matchups."

On the return of offensive lineman Chance Hall:

"It was good to have him back, he's a big part of that o-line room. He did a lot for us last year and it's great to have him back on the field and the o-line feels the same as well."

On if he'll be able to take advantage of Florida's man coverage by running the ball more:

"A little bit, but I know their d-coordinator has that in mind too. They play a lot of man coverage, but also some zone coverage to keep their eyes on the quarterback. Obviously it'll be a cat and mouse game, something we'll have to get a feel for as the game goes on."

On how his relationship with Josh Malone developed over the years:

"I remember on his official visit, it was after the Georgia game, we had lost in overtime, we hung out in the dorms, played some NCAA and everything and it was fun. Don't tell him, but I whooped him up pretty bad, but our relationship has just grown from there. I remember when he committed, texting him, we started talking a little bit more. Then we got to campus, we always hung out, we were together 24/7. Our relationship has really grown and we're great friends today. It's really helped our chemistry and our timing on the field as well."

On if he has the run-pass option on nearly every snap like he did last year:

"Yeah, it's a part of our offense, it's something we do. It's definitely a part of our offense, and of course you like making the decisions playing quarterback."



On what it's been like preparing for Florida:

"Coach Shoop does a great job preparing us for this week. I know their backup quarterback, he played at Perdue. He's a veteran guy, so we can prepare for that and be ready for any possible things they can throw at us."

On the importance of this game against Florida:

"I think everyone knows the magnitude of this game, but that's why you play college football, for games like this and I know we're all excited for it and ready for, you know, to get after it."

On if with all the injuries, it's up to the defensive line to pick up the slack:

"That's been the goal since day one, to be a d-line led team. We want all the pressure on us and we're accepting it. That's what we're doing for these games and the rest of the season."

On Chance Hall getting back to practice:

"Yeah, he looked pretty good. I know he's been in the training room working, rehabbing, getting his body right. We'll see how he progresses throughout the week and see what he's able to do."

On if it's intimidating to face an offense that's big and powerful:

"We don't get intimidated, that's the d-line. We know what we can do, we don't let anybody intimidate us."

On how great it is to see Derek Barnett having a great game like he did on Saturday vs Ohio:

"He was getting back there every play it felt like, but I'm not surprised by what he can do on the field. He's a dog, and that's what we need out of him on Saturday."


On if the result from last year inspires them at all this year against Florida:

"Everybody knows how they felt after that game, all that type of stuff. We know what that feeling felt like and nobody wants to have that feeling again."

With all the injuries, has anyone asserted themselves as the alpha male now? Has there been a message from the defense?

"I mean, we just have the next man up mentality. So every guy in there is just stepping up, playing their role. Every guy who's injured still has a big role in our defense, making sure the guy behind them knows what they're doing. I think that's kind of the cool thing about our defense, we don't really have one alpha male, we just have a whole defense of alpha males. We're all out there ready to go."

On if there's a clear understanding from the young guys on the team that you have to play better:

"Everyone knows the improvements we have to make, it's pretty apparent. We have to be better to beat teams we have to play this season. So it's good that we're 3-0, everybody is happy about that, but we've got to work to be 1-0 this week."


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