KNOXVILLE - It's the University of Tennessee's five against Florida's four, but Derek Dooley is still worried.
The Volunteers' second-year coach mentioned the importance of the matchup between UT's offensive line and the Gators' defensive front four twice after practice on Tuesday morning, and one of those was in answering a question about his receivers.
"Our guys just have to figure out how to block them," Dooley said. "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 intimidating given its talent. Defensive end Ronald Powell was Rivals.com's top recruit in 2010, Sharrif Floyd - who's back this week with his NCAA suspension up - was fourth in that class and Dominique Easley was seventh. The Gators' other starter is fifth-year senior Jaye Howard, who was a four-star recruit in the 2007 class.
UT expects to have left tackle Dallas Thomas on Saturday. The junior sprained his right knee in the win against Cincinnati and was limited during Tuesday's practice. Dooley said he's expecting Thomas to play and added that he's "on pace" to play.
I feel really good, just trying to get my mobility back," Thomas said. My knee's feeling really good. I just heard something go pop. We did the MRI and the next day I felt it was good and everything just worked out for the best.
"I've got to get in this game."
The Vols kept quarterback Tyler Bray's jersey spotless against Cincinnati, but the unit struggled to run-block Montana and the season opener. Florida will be a much more difficult task.
"We’re going to have to block these guys," Dooley said. "I keep saying that. It doesn’t matter how open you are. If you can’t deliver the ball to them, it doesn’t matter. And that’s going to be our biggest challenge, because this is as athletic and big a defensive front as you’ll see in college football. They’re good, and they just roll right through the offensive line."
ODDS AND ENDS
Defensive end Ben Martin (sprained ankle) didn't practice. Safety Prentiss Waggner was in a red non-contact jersey after he fell on his shoulder during Sunday's practice. The junior said it was merely precautionary.
Freshman tailback/return specialist Devrin Young was in a red non-contact jersey, but the Vols used him as their scout-team running back to get him some contact.
"I think [freshman linebacker] A.J. [Johnson] body-slammed him," Dooley said.
Young could play against Florida, most likely as a punt returner.
"I told him I would probably be called the dumbest coach in college football if I put him back there in the Swamp," Dooley said. "[But] I’m thinking about it, yeah. It isn’t the first dumb thing I’ve done, so I’m not scared. I don’t have to catch it.
"I know he can catch punts, I know he’s quick and elusive, he’s been hit [but] nothing will ease my mind until he goes out and catches one. I don’t know what I’m going to do."
IN WEDNESDAY'S TIMES FREE PRESS
Receivers Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers have gotten most of the attention, production and targets through UT's two games, and the Gators are likely going to focus their game plan on the sophomore duo. I'll look at a couple of the different ways the Vols are trying to make it easier for their primary playmakers to do what they do best.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...