By Jimmy Hyams
Former Florida receiver Chris Doering sees a huge flaw in both the Gators and Tennessee – and the concern comes from the same area: Offensive line.
The SEC Network analyst doesn’t think either team is good up front.
“Heading into the season, I had convinced myself that (Tennessee’s) offensive line was going to be better,’’ Doering said recently at the Knoxville Quarterback Club.
Doering said injuries contributed to UT’s inconsistent offensive line play last year. But this season, he expected guys like highly recruited right tackle Drew Richmond to be much better. Watching tape of UT’s O-line against East Tennessee State was alarming for Doering.
“You get down to the red zone and everyone starts making a mistake,’’ Doering said. “One of the worst things you can have happen – whether you’re talking about a run play or a pass play – is penetration up front.’’
Doering said he saw linemen too often with their backs turned to the line of scrimmage, looking at their quarterback.
“That is never a good position for a lineman to be in,’’ Doering said.
Doering said left tackle Trey Smith, who had a “great year as a freshman,’’ isn’t playing that well.
“Maybe it’s from the time off … but I see him getting beat, using bad technique and not necessarily having that same imposing presence that he had last year,’’ Doering said.
“I didn’t see a lot of urgency from those guys to be physical against a defensive line they should have dominated.’’
Doering thinks Florida has the same concerns.
“The (Florida) offensive line is not very good, in my opinion,’’ Doering said. “Everyone talks about them returning all five starters from last year, but those five starters gave up 36 sacks which was 13th in the conference. They’re still very inconsistent at protecting the quarterback.’’
Doering also noted the Gators couldn’t run the football well against FCS Charleston Southern or Kentucky.
Doering also isn’t sold on Gator QB Feleipe Franks.
“The quarterback is very limited in what he can do,’’ Doering said. “I don’t think he processes information very well. I don’t think he puts air under the ball and gives his receivers an opportunity.
“There’s a lot of talent at running back and receiver, but if you can’t protect up front, if you can’t get someone off the line of scrimmage, all that talent is a moot point.
“So they are going to struggle offensively this season and it’s going to be tough until they can securer things up front.’’
On the flip side, Doering has grown fond of Vols quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who has completed 72 percent of his passes while splitting time with Keller Chryst.
Doering said he wasn’t impressed with Guarantano last year, in part because of his “body language’’ during the opener against Georgia Tech last season.
“But I was impressed at the end of last year with his toughness and competitiveness,’’ Doering said. “I think he’s come a long way and (offensive coordinator) Tyson Helton and the coaching staff have done a good job with him, so I’m really excited about what he brings. I think he throws the deep ball really well.’’
Actually, Guarantano probably throws the short and immediate ball better.
Doering said one of UT’s strengths is the receiving corps. Doering thinks UT needs to get the ball more to Marquez Callaway.
Doering also likes UT at running back, led by Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan.
Doering is high on UT defensive tackle Shy Tuttle.
“He’s fast, athletic, penetrating, and really a guy that is fun to watch,’’ Doering said.
Doering said he is “not as worried about the secondary’’ as some other people. He said West Virginia has one of the best passing attacks in the country and that three of the Mountaineers TD passes against the Vols came when the Vols pressured and West Virginia got matchups against UT’s safeties.
UT allowed just 39 passing yards on 9 of 23 completions against UTEP, but the Miners are the opposite of West Virginia when it comes to passing efficiency.
Doering said defense has always been a strong suit for Florida but he said the Gators are thin at linebacker and cornerback and didn’t have their best linebacker (David Reese) against Kentucky and their best corner (Marco Wilson) is out for the season with a knee injury. The Gators have moved receiver Dre Massey to the secondary to compensate for losing four defensive backs.
Doering thinks the Gators are in trouble this season.
“I said before the year, if they lost to Kentucky, they are going to come up here and lose to (Tennessee),’’ Doering said.
“They just don’t have the leadership. They don’t have guys on that team that know how to compete. …. I thought going into the year Florida might win seven games. I think it’s probably going to be fortunate for them to get to that six win mark.’’