Behind Enemy Lines: Catching up with Vols Wire ahead of Saturday’s game

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Florida enters this weekend looking to bounce back from a hard-fought loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide last week, and it has a great opportunity to do it against a struggling Tennessee team. The Vols are 2-1 but dropped a home game to Pittsburgh in Week 2.

They also have a bit of a quarterback controversy, as Joe Milton III began the year as the starter but was injured in the Pitt game. Hendon Hooker entered, and he has been more productive since, starting last week, as well. But Milton is healthy and listed as the starter for Saturday’s game.

The Gators should be able to get back to their winning ways in this one, but with new coach Josh Heupel and his high-powered offensive style, this team will look a little bit different than the defense-dominated Jeremy Pruitt teams of the last couple of years.

To get the rundown of this Tennessee squad, we talked to Vols Wire managing editor Dan Harralson to get his take. You can also view Dan’s prediction for Saturday’s game here.

Here’s what he had to say.

The last decade or so has been difficult for Tennessee football, but the program reached a bit of a nadir in last year's 3-7 finish. How would you evaluate the job Josh Heupel is doing so far in turning things around and building a culture in Year 1?

Heupel has done a great job in establishing a culture since being hired.

Tennessee is still trying to figure things out at the quarterback spot. Joe Milton III began the season as the starter and has more arm talent than Hendon Hooker, but Hooker has looked much more effective leading the offense. Milton is listed as the starter against Florida, but do you think Hooker will see some opportunities against Florida? Which one gives UT the better chance to win?

Both quarterbacks bring various elements to Heupel’s offense. Heupel will continue to have vertical plays in the passing game and Milton III has the better arm. He needs to work on placing more touch on his throws. Milton III also provides an element of a power run game when he keeps the ball. Hooker is better at half rolls and shifting defenses out of position. Hooker needs to work on protecting the ball more, an issue that he has experienced this season.

The Gators have the nation's second-best rushing attack, while Tennessee boasts the fifth-best run defense. Something has to give in this game, obviously. How effective will Tennessee be at slowing down Florida's rushing attack?

It is going to be important for Tennessee's offense to not allow for its defense to be on the field a lot, whether that is due to the Vols’ offense scoring quick or three and outs, four-five play-type drives. Tennessee is leading the nation with 3.08 offensive plays per minute. Utah State is second with 2.95. The more Tennessee’s defense is out on the field, the longer Florida has a chance to dictate the game with their rushing attack.

Who is the X-factor skill position player on this Tennessee offense and why?

I wouldn’t say there is one. Heupel likes to get as many players as he can with touches, whether that be wide receivers or running backs. Tiyon Evans, a top JUCO running back, missed the Pittsburgh game and Tennessee was not able to run between the tackles like they would have liked. Evans being out affected the ability to use other running backs as utilities and flexed out.

Under Dan Mullen, this rivalry series hasn't ever been within 10 points. What does UT have to do to remain competitive in this one?

Tennessee needs to continue recruiting towards Heupel’s offense. Heupel has proven his offense has worked since becoming an offensive coordinator in the SEC at Missouri (2016-17) when he implemented the veer and shoot attack, studying the Baylor principles and concepts when Art Briles was the Bears’ head coach — an offensive scheme that is seen in the SEC at Arkansas and Ole Miss with former Baylor assistants Kendal Briles and Jeff Lebby as offensive coordinators. As a head coach, Heupel's teams have scored 30-plus points 36 times in 39 games. His teams are 30-6 when scoring 30-plus points. [vertical-gallery id=46350] [listicle id=55594 [listicle id=55537] Follow us @GatorsWire on Twitter and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Florida Gators news, notes and opinions.

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