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Many Florida Gators to play at hostile Tennessee for first time

GAINESVILLE — Now comes the hard part.

After struggling through its first two home games, Florida will take a team filled with newcomers to one of the most hostile stadiums in the SEC for its game against Tennessee on Saturday.

"That's one of the most difficult environments in the country to play in," UF coach Urban Meyer said Monday. "We're going to have a bunch of new players get on that plane and head to Knoxville, and so much of what we do around here is routine, and that is a major concern. … We'll have several meetings about it and try to get ready."

QB John Brantley has never played in Neyland Stadium, but a previous visit where he spent his time on the sideline might help.

"Absolutely it does," Brantley said. "I got a little taste of it a couple years ago, so I have a good idea of what the atmosphere is like already. To be able and sit back and watch it, I definitely learned from it."

Not so for many of the other players. The Gators have played 27 freshmen this season (16 true, 11 redshirt), and 39 of 69 players that have seen action in the first two games are freshmen or sophomores (56.5 percent).

That's a whole lot of people who've never faced 101,000 hostile fans.

Useful suggestion: After his struggles with finding the proper snap technique in the season opener, senior OL Mike Pouncey couldn't walk the street without someone offering advice. But it was a tip from a member of the Gators' equipment staff that actually helped. He's now staggering his stance with his right foot slightly behind him.

"I was snapping the ball, and he came up and he said, 'You might want to try staggering your stance because I see you're kind of squared up in your stance,' " Pouncey said. "I was like, that's a good idea. I was so used to playing guard, and I did it, and it worked. … That was the biggest tip for me. It helped me out a lot, and I was more comfortable in my stance."

As for the other advice Pouncey received?

"I heard it all," he said. "I was going through the drive-through at McDonald's, and as I was leaving, the guy told me, 'Man, hey, don't mess up the snaps again.' I said, 'Hey, don't mess up my sandwiches anymore.' "

Pouncey was named the SEC offensive lineman of the week Monday. Teammate Jeff Demps, who accumulated 255 all-purpose yards and had a career-best 54-yard kickoff return, was named SEC special teams player of the week. RBs Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina) and Trent Richardson (Alabama) were co-offensive players of the week, and Auburn DT Nick Fairley won for defense.

Right call: In the past two weeks, Florida dropped like a rock in the polls. The Gators are No. 10 in the Associated Press poll and No. 7 in the coaches poll. Which seems more than fair to the crew that will call Saturday's game for CBS.

"They should fall in the polls," CBS studio analyst Tim Brando said. "The expectation level for John Brantley was that he was going to — to use an old quote that Urban didn't like — 'be a real quarterback.' … The feeling was that Florida would be able to move the football, and the beat would go on.

"They have been disappointing, and I'm encouraged by the fact that people who are in a position to vote have decided that they don't deserve to be preseason No. 3 or whatever they were, depending upon which poll you're talking about."

CBS analyst Gary Danielson, who will call Saturday's game against the Vols, said the Gators are a victim of preseason rankings based on last season.

"To me, I'm not surprised that they are moving down. I was surprised where they were ranked to start off with considering they were going to be starting six to eight true freshmen and a new quarterback," Danielson said.

Injury update: RB Chris Rainey was held out of Sunday's practice after suffering a concussion in the USF game but is expected to be ready to play. OL James Wilson's cartilage issue in his knee remains a problem, and the knee is still swollen, but Meyer said Wilson might practice by Wednesday.

He said it: "Two years ago, I saw a little 4-year-old kid flipping me off. I was kind of like, 'Do you even know what that even means? What are you doing?' " — UF senior OL Carl Johnson on his trip to Knoxville in 2008.

UK start: The Sept. 25 Kentucky game will kick off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Many Florida Gators to play at hostile Tennessee for first time 09/13/10 [Last modified: Monday, September 13, 2010 9:28pm]

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