GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WATE) – This weekend’s road trip to the Swamp will be a new experience for a good chunk of Tennessee’s roster, as through the first three weeks of the season, Tennessee has played 17 true freshmen.
Linebacker Henry To’o To’o and defensive back Warren Burrell each have three starts already under their belts. The Vols newcomers will get their first taste on Saturday – not only of what life is like in the SEC but what it’s like playing in a hostile environment.
“To me it’s fun going on the road. I like going on the road. You find out who you are. Everybody is against you, you kind of see a little bit about your character. It’ll be good for us,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said.
Jennings and the playmakers
Jauan Jennings and the Vols kick off conference play Saturday and for the Murfreesboro native, Saturday’s trip to the Swamp will be his last as a Tennessee Vol.
While Tennessee might be off to a slow start this season, Jennings is not.
After racking up 438 receiving yards in 2018, the redshirt senior has already totaled over 200 yards in his first three games. Jennings leads Tennessee receivers in catches, yards and touchdowns, averaging 17 yards per touch.
There’s been no question who quarterback Jarrett Guarantano’s favorite target has been in 2019 to get a win over the Gators on Saturday – they’ll need their playmaker to show up.
“I take a lot of pride in that, being a go-to guy,” said Jennings. “Whenever you need me, I just always want to be there for you. It’s a lot of pride in that but I’m not just worried about me. We got a lot of guys on this team that can make plays so I know at the end of the day you know you throw the ball to Marquez, you throw the ball to me, you throw the ball to Palmer, I know as a receiver group we’re going to come down with it.”
Tennessee could really benefit from getting more production from everyone not named Jauan Jennings. Josh Palmer has just 91 receiving yards this season. Maybe more surprising is tight-end Dominick Wood-Anderson: Five catches for 90 yards and no touchdowns.
There’s no question Jim Chaney is working on ways to get more of his playmakers the ball.
Florida to flex backup QB
Meanwhile, Florida is turning to a backup quarterback this week.
Feleipe Franks will have surgery Monday to repair a fractured and dislocated ankle. Franks left the Gators’ win at Kentucky on a cart in the third quarter. The quarterback in his redshirt junior year and dealing with an injury that head coach Dan Mullen says will require a recovery of six months.
Florida trailed Kentucky by 11 points when Franks left the game. Backup quarterback Kyle Trask didn’t flinch keeping the Gators’ undefeated record intact as they rallied back to win 29-21.
Trask is also a redshirt junior who already has a degree in hand, working on his masters. Coach Mullen calls Trask a “throwback” in his era of college football as he’s a guy that has stuck with Florida despite not being a starter.
“My meeting with him after last season was do we need to help you go somewhere else? That’s the in thing in college football. How fast can I transfer. Kyle was never that way,” Mullen said of Trask.
Trask had his reasons.
“I figured why leave when I’m at a great university and have great friends and teammates that support me. I just prepared everyday as if I was the starter as I should be,” Trask said.
While Trask is expected to start is expected to start Saturday, Gators quarterback Emory Jones is expected to play – two backups that have the same experience.
Vols look to keep momentum despite history
Saturday will mark the 49th meeting between Tennessee and Florida.
The Gators have eight more wins than the Vols but the rivalry has really been one-sided in the Swamp.
Tennessee has only topped Florida five times in Gainesville and has not won in the Swamp in the last seven tries.
While Pruitt says it will be good for the Vols, Gainesville has not been good to Tennessee in over a decade.
Tennessee has not won a game in the Swamp since 2003.