published Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Tennessee Vols' Jordan Williams excited about Florida homecoming

Sam Gilbreath
Tennessee defensive lineman Jordan Williams (54) celebrates an interception during the first half of their NCAA college football game against Austin Peay, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, in Knoxville.
Tennessee defensive lineman Jordan Williams (54) celebrates an interception during the first half of their NCAA college football game against Austin Peay, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, in Knoxville.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee defensive end Jordan Williams is no stranger to Gainesville and the Florida Gators.

The Volunteers junior grew up in the Gators' home city and played at Gainesville High School just a couple of miles away from Florida's Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. His father Keith even played for the Gators.

Williams said he's excited to get back to his hometown and play in front of his family, which he'll do when Tennessee visits 19th-ranked Florida on Saturday.

"My dad is definitely going to be in the stands to cheer me on," he said Tuesday. "My quarterback in high school is actually a walk-on there, and I know a couple of the guys."

Williams was a true freshman for Tennessee's last trip to Florida, a 33-23 loss in 2011, but he didn't play in that game and made his collegiate debut in the Vols' next game against Buffalo.

The Vols haven't beaten their Florida rivals since a 30-28 victory in Knoxville in 2004.

"I actually remember that game," Williams said. "I watched it in a CiCi's Pizza. I was 11, I think."

"This is one of our rivals. Whether it's here or there, this is an important game."

Tennessee defensive tackle Trevarris Saulsberry, who was Williams' teammate at Gainesville and now rooms with him, also was looking forward to the trip to his hometown, but a knee injury will keep him from playing.

"He was hurting that he couldn't get down there and play," Williams said. "He's been wanting to. Both of us have."

Sapp feeling fine

Linebacker Dontavis Sapp suffered what he called a "ding" in the loss at Oregon, but he insisted he would be fine for this Saturday. He said he was ready to move on from last week's "learning experience" and look ahead to the rival Gators.

"Right now I'm 0-3 against this team," Sapp said. "It'd be good to get this win and stop this losing streak."

In the Vols' 37-20 loss to the Gators in Knoxville last year, the Vols' defense allowed more than 550 yards of total offense.

"We've just got to play defense and tackle better," Sapp said.

"It was loud," Sapp recalled of the 2011 loss in Gainesville. "It was a great environment. We're just trying to quiet them down a little bit and get the win and then come back to Knoxville."

QB update

Tennessee coach Butch Jones reopened the Vols' quarterback competition Monday, and he said following Tuesday's practice the competition would go "all week long."

Jones played it close to the vest when asked what he saw from the quartet of Justin Worley, who's started the season's first three games, redshirt freshman backup Nathan Peterman and true freshmen Riley Ferguson and Josh Dobbs.

"I'll know a little bit more when I watch the film, but I saw a little more of a competitive spirit amongst all of them, a little more sense of urgency," Jones said. "As I talk about, competition is healthy. I'll know a little bit more in terms of the overall execution and the base fundamentals of our offense when I watch film."

Jones made it clear Monday that the position is open to whoever has the best week of practice.

"At the end of the day, you're measured upon results," he said. "What's the results? Wins and losses. A starting quarterback is the like a starting pitcher in baseball. You're measured by wins and losses and production."

Tight situation

With Alex Ellis (leg) out indefinitely and Joseph Ayres' season over with a torn ACL, Tennessee is down two tight ends, and true freshman A.J. Branisel has moved ahead of junior college transfer Woody Quinn as the Vols' No. 2 option behind starter Brendan Downs.

"We're trying to force-feed him right now at tight end, and he's going through the little nuances and the learning curve of a true freshman, but I thought today was his best practice," Jones said. "We've been limited there with injuries and we've been limited with what we want to do with our tight end position, but Brendan Downs has been a model of consistency. Now we need A.J. to step up as well."

Extra points

Freshman defensive end Corey Vereen practiced Tuesday without a noncontact jersey. ... Backup center Mack Crowder, who's appeared as a second tight end in some run-heavy sets this season, was limping around Haslam Field and worked out on the side. ... Slot receivers Johnathon Johnson and Pig Howard did very little during the open portion of practice. Howard rode a stationary bike and Johnson worked out on the side. Both missed the Oregon game with leg injuries.

Patrick Brown contributed to this report.

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