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Leon Orr injury forces Florida Gators defense to adjust

GAINESVILLE — The Florida defense, which gave up a program-high 672 yards to Alabama two weeks ago, looks to rebound Saturday at Tennessee. With DT Leon Orr (meniscus), a Gulf High alum, out for the game, defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said there will be several personnel adjustments.

"Jonathan Bullard will play some more inside," he said. "He's been playing both for us and will get some more reps inside. Joey Ivie (Pasco High) will get some more reps now inside. He's been rotating and playing as well. That will give Bryan Cox some more reps outside at end."

Durkin had high praise for freshman RB Jalen Hurd, who leads the Volunteers in rushing with 328 yards on 72 carries. "I think he's a guy that has good playing experience now," he said. "He's playing within their scheme and doing well."

UCF: AAC opening night

HOUSTON — If history is any kind of indicator, UCF's American Athletic Conference opener tonight figures to be a close game. The visiting Knights (1-2) own a 4-1 record against the Cougars (2-2), but four of those five games have been decided by seven points or fewer. That includes last year's 19-14 UCF victory that was decided in the final minute when the Knights defense held off Houston, which had first and goal from the UCF 10. "We've had a lot of close games in the past with Houston," LB Troy Gray said. "But this year coming up, we just need to make sure that we go out and establish our running game on offense and (our) passing game and the defense makes sure that we do our job and not make it so close." UCF is the defending AAC champ and has won four consecutive conference openers dating to its time in Conference USA.

benched: Rannell Hall will miss tonight's first half. The receiver and returner was ejected for a targeting penalty in the fourth quarter of UCF's win Sept. 20 over Bethune-Cookman. "I feel like Rannell does come in and make some big plays for us, but seeing the guys that we've got at receiver, I feel like we won't skip a beat," senior TE Justin Tukes said. "We've got Jackie Williams coming off the bench and he will definitely make a difference in the game, and then we've got Jordan Akins, a freshman who has been helping a lot."

Times wires

USF: Carden who?

TAMPA — Apparently, not all of the college football stratosphere has grown enamored with East Carolina senior QB Shane "Cap'n" Carden, who brings the nation's seventh-ranked offense (581.5 ypg) to Raymond James Stadium on Oct. 11.

Count Bulls DL Eric Lee among those yet to be bowled over. Asked about Carden, who has more career 400-yard passing games (five) than USF's entire program (one), Lee said, "nothing special."

"He's like any other quarterback," he said. "He's short, that's … the only assessment. Of course, you can't underestimate or overestimate though. You've just got to go out and come out here and practice for whoever is in front of you."

Naturally, coach Willie Taggart begged to differ. Incidentally, Carden, who already has thrown for 1,469 yards and 11 TDs in four games, is listed at 6 feet 2. "I don't think (Lee) was looking at the same East Carolina film," Taggart said.

MACK RECOGNIZED: Freshman TB Marlon Mack, still 15th nationally with 536 rushing yards, has been named to the College Football Performance Awards Freshman Performer of the Year Watch List. He is one of only two from the AAC — Tulane RB Sherman Badie is the other — on the 30-player list. Though his performance has tailed off considerably since his surreal debut (school single-game record 275 rushing yards) against Western Carolina, he still is 26th nationally in rushing yards per game (107.2).

Joey Knight, Times staff writer