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September 12, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike DiRocco

nastyhogan91 (thomasville ga.)

Gators d were lights out in the second half of saturdays game...do u think they can keep it up throughout the season?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:01 PM)

nastyhogan91 -- Possibly. UF's defenders, especially up front, have a tendency to be over-aggressive, which takes them out of position to make plays. If they can be more disciplined they'll be a better defense.

Tony (Richmond, CA)

Which is the bigger key to the Gators leaving Knoxville with a victory, not allowing the Vols to generate a running game, or Driskel not being ovewhelmed at Neyland and turning the ball over?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:03 PM)

Tony -- Turnovers are always the biggest key in any game. Driskel may commit some, but it won't be because he is overwhelmed. I think UF has to make the Vols one-dimensional. If the Gators can stop the run, like they did last year, they can tee off on Bray and the WRs.

Bruce (Sopchoppy)

How do feel about the defensive line play so far in terms of pressure/sacks?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:04 PM)

Bruce -- The Gators haven't gotten much pressure in the first two games, but that's because Bowling Green and A&M were using short, quick passes that got the ball out before the rushers had a chance to get there. Tennessee QB Tyler Bray will use 5- and 7-step drops so that gives the Gators more chance to pressure the QB. Not saying they will, but that they have a better chance this game than the first two.

David (Jacksonville)

Why has there been a lack of passes (screens) to the RB? I know there are lack of passes in general, but we heard about these preseason.

Michael DiRocco
  (4:06 PM)

David -- I've been wondering the same thing, because the coaches raved about Gillislee's hands. Plus, Pease said on Tuesday that Matt Jones has great hands, too. Maybe Driskel isn't comfortable running the screens. Some QBs don't throw them well, either. I'll try and get some answers to this for you next week.

David (Jacksonville)

if Gillislee is slowed by injury, could we see more designed runs from Driskel?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:07 PM)

David -- I think you're dead on with that. Mack Brown and Matt Jones will get more work, but Driskel will be counted on to pick up the slack, too. Probably more read options and bootlegs.

Cody (Gainesville, FL)

What is your take on Tennessee's D-Line and how our O-Line matches up with them? I hear it may be their weakness.

Michael DiRocco
  (4:10 PM)

Cody -- UT's DL is HUGE. NG Daniel McCullers is listed at 6-6, 377 pounds, which probably means he's closer to 400. DE Darrington Sentimore is 288 pounds and DE Maurice Couch is 6-2, 299. That's some beef. UF did a pretty good job against A&M but still struggled in short yardage. I don't know if the OL is going to have much success in those situations.

Joey (Tampa)

How do you expect Florida to defend Bray and their vaunted passing attack?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:12 PM)

Joey -- First of all, I think UF will try and make UT one dimensional and take away the run. Then they'll try and pressure Bray as much as they can. They can't let him sit back there and survey the field or he'll pick them apart. They'll try to get Bray to move out of the pocket. UF's DBs are physical and will try and knock the WRs off their routes early. UF loves press coverage.

Andre (Monticello, FL)

Mike, I know after the A&M some key players got nicked up pretty bad how does the depth look for the UT game. Will we see a lot of new faces as the game goes on because I'm expected this game to be very physical.

Michael DiRocco
  (4:14 PM)

Andre -- I think UF is OK in the secondary without Riggs. They have enough bodies there, plus Pop Saunders is back. At LB, UF has more depth than last season. Antonio Morrison will take over for Jelani Jenkins, but Mike Taylor also will get some work there. UF is going to play a lot of nickel so the LB depth isn't as big of an issue as it would be against a team that has trouble throwing the ball.

Josh Evans (Rehab)

Will my ego be healed soon enough for me to play against the Vols? Or will I need a few more weeks?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:15 PM)

Josh -- We could hear that hit all the way up in the press box, which was on the 9th floor above the stadium. That you were even conscious after Malena plowed into you was impressive.

John (Gainesville)

How big of a void is left at the linebacker position with the loss of Jelani Jenkins this weekend? Also, what is your initial impression of M. Taylor & Morrison's role thus far this year?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:17 PM)

John -- Losing Jenkins hurts, but the coaching staff loves Morrison. He's a big hitter despite weighing only 218 pounds, and Dan Quinn was talking to us today and raving about Morrison's maturity and football knowledge. I like Taylor because he's versatile enough to play several spots. They're not Jenkins, but they're going to be OK. UF will play a lot of nickel anyway to combat UT's passing attack.

Mo (VA)

The gators o-line hasn't looked great to me, but the coaching staff said this was the team's greatest strengths. am I missing something?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:19 PM)

Mo -- No, I don't think you are. Pease explained himself the other day and used stats to back up his argument. But we all know you can make stats say what you want. The OL doesn't pass the "eye" test for me. It's better than last year but it's far from a great OL. I think the staff has been talking the OL up all offseason to feed their confidence.

Brian (Tampa)

Hello Mike. Last week you mentioned that the WR corps is perhaps the weakest link on this team. Did any of them do anything to aquit themselves in your eyes on Saturday? Do you feel that Hines should be used more as a WR?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:20 PM)

Brian -- Nope. Hines is, essentially, a better, stronger Trey Burton. He just doesn't fit in any one spot. If it were me, I'd use him the way the Patriots use Aaron Hernandez.

Shawn (Houston, TX )

What do you expect from Florida's defensive front with Jenkins out and Ten experienced front line

Michael DiRocco
  (4:21 PM)

Shawn -- UT is running the ball pretty well so far, and that will be the Gators' No. 1 priority on defense. If the front is as disciplined as it was in the second half against A&M they'll be OK. If not, it could be a long day.

David (Jacksonville)

With the injuries on the defensive side of the ball, will it effect Elam's role to play close to the line of scrimmage?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:23 PM)

David -- I don't think so. He'll play what's pretty much a nickel linebacker. The Gators will be in a lot of nickel to combat UT's pass attack and Elam will have to sort of be the Gators third LB in that situation.

Dan (Nashville)

I think the offesense will get better and better as the season goes along, barring injuries, this gator team could be scary come december, your thoughts?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:24 PM)

Dan -- Well, I don't know about scary, but I do think the offense will get better as Driskel gets more comfortable and gains experience. However, there is a ceiling here because there is a shortage of playmakers at WR. Mike Gillislee is the key. If he stays healthy the offense should be OK.

Jeff (Tampa, FL)

Will the Gator injuries make this game close and more interesting than it should be? And did the Florida DB get the license plate on that truck that ran him over? Wow! The film room has to hurt more than the injury.

Michael DiRocco
  (4:26 PM)

Jeff -- Losing Jenkins hurts, but the Gators feel good about Antonio Morrison and Mike Taylor filling in. They're better equipped to deal with losing Riggs, though, because the secondary is the defense's deepest and strongest position. I saw Josh Evans today and he looked OK. As he walked by I looked for tire treads but didn't see any.

Shawn (Houston, TX )

How do you think Florida's Back field will match up against Ten WR's And more experienced QB now?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:28 PM)

Shawn -- UT's WRs are big and physical, but the Gators CBs (notably Roberson and Purifoy) are big and physical, too -- although Purifoy struggled in tackling in the opener. There's going to be a lot of contact and jostling for the ball, especially for those 50-50 balls. UF has to win a few of those to be successful. They didn't win many last year.

Tony (Richmond, CA)

Who will replace Jelani Jenkins and Cody Riggs?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:28 PM)

Tony -- Antonio Morrison and Mike Taylor will replace Jenkins and the Gators will move guys around to compensate for not having Riggs. Pop Saunders is back, too.

Shawn (Houston, TX )

What do you expect from Pease as far as the play calling for Driskel? Will we see more passing since UT has such a strong OF line?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:29 PM)

Shawn -- I don't think Driskel will ever be asked to throw more than 20-25 passes in a game, unless UF is getting clobbered. I do expect more creative play calls, like the throw to Hines, but UF is going to run, run, run the football.

David (Jacksonville)

UT will be the first opponent this season we have film on from this season. I would think that has to count for something.

Michael DiRocco
  (4:30 PM)

David -- That and the fact that this team and staff faced the team last year. But it's still a matter of stopping them. Knowing what's coming doesn't help if you can't stop it.

Shane (St. Augustine)

Does Driskell have the green light to run? It appears that he is hesitant to take off, but doesn't want to throw the ball away either.

Michael DiRocco
  (4:31 PM)

Shane -- Driskel does have the green light, but you're right, he does hesitate sometimes. But that's something all young QBs go through. He said he'll throw the ball away more this week if he's in those situations, but we'll see.

Chris (Gainesville)

Mike, could I get a prediction on the score, maybe a bold prediction or two for this game?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:32 PM)

Chris -- Sure. I thought before the season that UF would go up there and win and I'm not changing that now. I'll take UF 21-17. I think UF's secondary is good enough to make it hard for UT's WRs to make a lot of big plays. Here's a bold prediction: One of my flights on the weekend will be delayed.

Cody (Gainesville, FL)

A lot of talk has been made to slow Tennesse's run game down first, and make them one dimentional like last year. What say UT doesn't even look to the run game and come out passes flying? I can't imagine the Vols going away from their strength before going to it.

Michael DiRocco
  (4:33 PM)

Cody -- They may very well do that, but they won't ignore the run. The pass game is even more dangerous if the Vols can run the ball. That sells play-action and it forces the Gators out of nickel to try and stop the ground game, which is just what UT wants.

dave (pasdena texas)

u thank florida D can match up to alabama D

Michael DiRocco
  (4:33 PM)

dave -- Nope.

Shawn (Houston, TX )

I have not watched Tennessee much thus far, how good do they run the ball and how good is their OF line?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:36 PM)

Shawn -- They've run it pretty well. They're averaging 187.5 yards per game. Their OL is experienced and big. It averages 318 pounds and the smallest guy is 300 pounds.

Brian (Tampa)

I read where Coach Pease said that he'd like to get the ball in Andre Debose's hands some more. What has been the main disconnect with him? He seems to have loads of talent that for some reason isn't showing up on the field.

Michael DiRocco
  (4:38 PM)

Brian -- The answer on Debose is this: He doesn't work consistently hard in practice and apparently isn't completely knowledgable about the offense.

David (Jacksonville)

Is Tennessee really that much better from last year? Their stats are about the same as last season at this time vs similar opponents. I hope they are better and UF still wins. Are both of these teams better than last season?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:40 PM)

David -- I don't know, and I don't think anyone else does, either. NC State is an average to below-average ACC team, and we all know how good that conference is. This will be an indicator of how good UT is. As for UF, I think the offense is a little better. The defense still seems to have the same issue -- can't force turnovers. The schedule is easier, though, so the record should be better.

Travis (Charlotte, NC)

Who wins the game?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:40 PM)

Travis -- I picked UF to win 21-17.

Colby Easter (Loudon, TN)

With all the talk about the Tennessee and Florida game... Do you think there might be TOO much talk going to the Vols heads?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:42 PM)

Colby -- If anything, I think UF could be the over-confident team. They've won 7 in a row over the Vols and are coming off a big road win. Good teams follow that up with another good performance. Let's see if the Gators can do that.

Tony (Richmond, CA)

Is Georgia the biggest obstacle to Florida returning to the SEC Championship Game? South Carolina is too one-dimensional in my opinion unless Connor Shaw really improves on the throwing touch I've seen.

Michael DiRocco
  (4:43 PM)

Tony -- In terms of Eastern Division teams, yes. I do think SC isn't as good as people thought as that's a winnable game for UF now. But the biggest obstacle is UF's lack of offensive talent. Once that's fixed, the Gators will be a factor again.

Brian (Tampa)

I share some of the same opinions on the Gators' O-Line. Do you think DJ Humphries will be starting by season's end? He's looked good in the few plays I've noticed him in there.

Michael DiRocco
  (4:45 PM)

Brian -- I do think Humphries could very well be a starter by the end of the year. Matt Patchan is hurt and neither Nixon or Green are spectacular. He's the future at LT. Why not get a look at him against Jax State and La-Lafayette?

Ryan (Tampa)

If Driskell continues to improve every week and locks down the starting job what is the best move for Brissette? Do you think he could ever take the starting job?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:47 PM)

Ryan -- Driskel will gain valuable experience as the starter this year and I don't see Brissett being able to overtake him if that's the case. Now, if Driskel struggles and they go to Brissett he very well could end up the permanent starter. But If things stay the way they are, he should either redshirt or leave if he wants to play somewhere.

nate (norcal)

are you biased towards Florida?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:48 PM)

nate -- Uh, no. I just think they're going to beat UT. I don't think they're going to beat LSU, Georgia and Florida State. They're not talented enough, especially offensively, to hang with those teams.

Grogs (SD)

Should I start Chris Johnson or Stevan Ridley?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:49 PM)

Grogs -- I'm a Patriots fan. Go with Ridley.

Brian (Tampa)

Mike, Thanks for another great chat. What is your opinion of the job Coach Champ has done? I feel like he has done very well with the kind of team he was given. Looking at the young guys on this team and the class he has coming in, I think 2013 could be a huge year for the Gators. Do you agree?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:51 PM)

Brian -- I think Muschamp's first year was pretty much a wash because he had to fix attitude, entitlement and discipline problems in the program. Plus, the talent level on offense is terrible and it's going to take several years for him to bring that back up to the level it should be at Florida. The one thing I tell everyone that I really like about Will is that he's got a plan and he's sticking to it. He's not taking shortcuts, even if that means a short-term benefit but not one in the long term. And I think Jeremy Foley understands exactly where the program was when Will got here and he'll get the time to rebuild it. I would agree that 2013 could be a good year -- but only if some of those freshmen WRs can make an impact.

nate (norcal)

The Tennessee guys think they are gonna win. Interesting.

Michael DiRocco
  (4:52 PM)

nate -- If you mean the Tennessee writers, that's not surprising. They see more of the Vols than I do so they have a better feel for that team. These teams are pretty even in my opinion, so it's easy to pick either team.

nate (norcal)

how hot is Mushcamps seat if they get schooled in Konxville?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:53 PM)

nate -- Not hot at all. Check out my answer to Brian's question a few minutes ago. That'll explain everything.

Roger (Midwest)

Mike, you mentioned that the O should try to get the ball in Hines' hands more through the air through a TE or H-back role, and I agree 100%. But could we see him get some more touches out of the back field with Gilly possibly being hobbled a bit this week. He is too athletic to only touch the ball a few times each game.

Michael DiRocco
  (4:54 PM)

Roger -- I'm not a big fan of having Hines in the backfield, mainly because he's never done it and he's not comfortable taking handoffs, from what I can see anyway. He needs to be used in the passing game.

Mason (Colorado Springs)

A lot has been said of Muschamp's career up to this point, both positively and negatively - Where do you see his development as a head coach? Strengths? Weaknesses?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:56 PM)

Mason -- Well, look at last week's game. They were getting embarrassed on defense at A&m in he first half. He made adjustments and was able to fix the problems and the Gators won a big road game. He's getting better on game days, I think, but certainly could improve more. He's a fantastic recruiter. If the Gators lose, it won't be because of a lack of talent.

Julio (NYC)

Where is UT strongest on defense?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:58 PM)

Julio -- Probably the secondary. UT has already picked off five passes in two games.

nate (norcal)

Im asking all the right questions today! SHAZAAAAM. Im gonna be at your chats every time!

Michael DiRocco
  (4:59 PM)

nate -- That's got to be the first time in ESPN history the word Shazam has appeared in a chat. Congratulations. And come back every week. Love to have you here.

Jeff (Tampa, FL)

Do the Gators help save Dooley's job or keep him firmly on the hot seat in your opinion?

Michael DiRocco
  (4:59 PM)

Jeff -- I've picked UF to win so I think he'll still be on the hot seat.

Brian (Tampa)

Considering what Patterson is doing for the Vols, do you think the Gators may be able to pick up some experienced WR help for next year by going the JUCO route? I know they don't always pan out, but it sure couldn't hurt to try.

Michael DiRocco
  (5:00 PM)

Brian -- They've got commitments from several prep WRs, including Ahmad Fulwood from Jacksonville. I don't think they'll go the JUCO route. JUCO players, for whatever reason, have a pretty poor track record at UF.

nate (norcal)

better offense UT or A&M?

Michael DiRocco
  (5:00 PM)

nate -- UT. The A&M QB, while fast and a fantastic athlete, isn't a good passer.

Derrin (Plano, TX)

Do the Gators have someone on special teams that can help out the offense by shortening the field?

Michael DiRocco
  (5:01 PM)

Derrin -- Andre Debose is one of the nation's best kick returners, but I'd be surprised if UT kicks to him. P Kyle Christy has shown the ability to pin teams inside the 20, so he'll help with that from a defensive standpoint.

mike (orlando)

fred taylor's kid is coming next year. we need some receivers, ike, reidel, or jaquez have any kids nearing college age?

Michael DiRocco
  (5:02 PM)

mike -- Not that I know of, but I do think Muschamp has already contacted Tim Tebow to lay the groundwork for his eventual offspring to end up at UF.

Chris (Daytona, FL)

Mike, which UF unit/position creates the best mismatch against UT that could be a big factor in a possible Gator victory?

Michael DiRocco
  (5:03 PM)

Chris -- I think UF's CBs match up pretty well with UT's WRs from a size and physicality perspective. If the front can get a pass rush that could be an area the Gators can win.

Michael DiRocco
  (5:04 PM)

OK everyone. Thanks for another great chat. See you guys next week, same time.And, nate: Shazam!