Tennessee seeks its first victory against arch-rival Florida since 2004 on Saturday. The Gators have won the past 11 games against the Vols. For that streak to end, Tennessee is going to need all of its players to step up in a big way. With that in mind, here are some Volunteers who could rise above the rest against Florida.
Josh Dobbs, Quarterback (Sr.)
Lackluster performances in the first three games of the season by Josh Dobbs and the Volunteers have left fans scratching their heads. Before the 2016 season began, Vol fans and football experts alike hailed Dobbs as a Heisman hopeful. Now, Vol Nation is just hopeful that Dobbs can complete a pass 20 yards downfield.
Dobbs’ inconsistency hasn’t necessarily been his fault, however. Tennessee’s quarterback has had virtually no time to stand in the pocket due to a disappointing offensive line, and the offensive play calling has seldom allowed Dobbs the ability to use his legs. That could all change on Saturday. If Tennessee wants to win, it has to.
Josh Malone has stepped up as a favorite target of Dobbs, connecting for four touchdowns in the first three games. If Florida is to take Dobbs seriously as a running threat and a passing threat, he’ll have to find Malone early and often in the game. Dobbs is capable of 300 yards through the air and 100 yards on the ground — he’s done that twice in his career. Perhaps the third time will have to be the charm to stop the Gators from chomping the Vols. For the 11-game losing streak to end, No. 11 needs to shine.
Chance Hall, Offensive Lineman (Soph.)
Never has the return of a lineman had more of an impact on a game than the return of sophomore starter Chance Hall. Tennessee’s offensive line has been embarrassed by inferior talent thus far in the Vols’ 2016 campaign.
None of those three games included Chance Hall. As a true freshman, Hall started in the final seven games of 2015 and looked solid against some of the SEC’s best. However, an arthroscopic knee surgery in August sidelined him to begin the 2016 season. Hall is expected to start at right tackle in place of Coleman Thomas, who was moved from center due to poor performance. If Tennessee wants a victory in Neyland Stadium on Saturday, pass protection will be key. Expect Hall to deliver a big game against a big rival.
Josh Malone, Wide Receiver (Jr.)
As previously mentioned, quarterback Josh Dobbs and wide receiver Josh Malone have hooked up for four touchdowns in just the first three contests of the season. A one-dimensional offense will not get the job done against the Florida Gators. If the Volunteers want to find success on Saturday, the passing game needs to open up and Dobbs must find Malone repeatedly.
Malone has shown his deep-threat ability this season, catching a 67-yard bomb in Tennessee’s opener against Appalachian State as well as a 38-yard touchdown grab against Virginia Tech. In the Vols’ game against Ohio, Malone hauled in a pair of 20-yard touchdowns, proving his effectiveness in the red zone. If Tennessee wants to beat the Gators, Malone will have to showcase himself in all aspects of the passing game.
The 46th meeting between Tennessee and Florida will kickoff on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.
Edited by Adam Milliken
Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics