Gators game preview: Tennessee

ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation is previewing each of Florida’s 2012 opponents. Today is Tennessee (Sept. 15 in Knoxville, Tenn.).


2011 record: 5-7 (1-7 SEC).

Coach: Derek Dooley, third season (11-14); sixth season overall (28-34).

Series record: Florida leads 22-19.

Top returners: QB Tyler Bray (1,983 yards, 17 TDs, 6 INTs); WR Da’Rick Rogers (67 catches, 1,040 yards, 9 TDs); LB Curt Maggitt (56 tackles); LB A.J. Johnson (80 tackles).

Did you know? Tennessee’s loss to Kentucky last season was its first to the Wildcats since 1984.

Scouting the offense: The passing game should rival Arkansas for the best in the league, especially with the return of WR Justin Hunter from a torn ACL. The running game, however, remains a question. The line is experienced, but it’s the same unit that paved the way for UT to average just 90 yards per game. The RBs aren’t anything special, either.

Scouting the defense: New coordinator Sal Sunseri comes from Alabama and is certain to bring a little Nick Saban with him. The linebackers are young but talented -- Johnson was a freshman All-American last season. The secondary is experienced but didn’t make many plays last season.

Three things to watch

  1. UF’s cornerbacks struggled to make plays on the ball last season, and this matchup will be a good test to see if they’ve improved. Rogers is 6-foot-3 and Hunter is 6-4, so their size is a concern. Marcus Roberson (6-0) and Loucheiz Purifoy (6-1) match up physically, so it should be a good battle.

  2. Remember when Tennessee just kept producing big-time backs that ended up in the NFL? Now the Vols are struggling just to break 100 yards in a game. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has pledged to be more committed to the run game, but there isn't an Arian Foster or Travis Stephens on the roster. UF held UT to minus-9 yards rushing in last season’s meeting.

  3. The Gators have won seven in a row in the series and three in a row in Knoxville. It’s the longest winning streak over the Vols in school history.