If the UT-Florida game is as entertaining on the field in 2016 as the offseason chatter has been, it’ll be a good one.
While Tennessee has largely kept quiet over the offseason, Florida players, led by cornerback Jalen Tabor, have taken an extremely confident stance about playing UT in 2016 despite early lines coming out in UT’s favor and Tennessee being picked to win the SEC East.
“It’s discussed a lot, I wouldn’t sit here and lie to you,” Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor said on The B/R Spotlight show on Sirius XM on Tuesday (H/T GatorBait.net for transcribing the quotes). “Just the fact that they’ve got some confidence and they really think they can beat us.
“I mean, I don’t know how many times you have to beat somebody over 10 years plus in a row for them to just really own up. It’s just, I mean, I’ve never been beaten 11 years in a row by one team or one person, so I wouldn’t know how that feels. But it’s talked about a lot.”
Tabor, who has been very vocal about his confidence against UT on social media this offseason as well, continued on another radio opportunity:
“Tennessee, they’ve got a good program, got a good coach, got a few good players,” he told the “Full Ride” show on Sirius XM. “But at the end of the day, if you want to win the East, you’ve got to come through the Gators. Tennessee is one of those teams like no matter how much they get up on us, we just feel like we’re going to win that game at the end of the day.
“Through two years we’ve won by two points combined, so that just tells you the drive that we have to win the game. No matter what, no matter how many points they score, no matter how many yards they get, as long as we’re up by one point. I think we’ll do the same thing this year.”
Tennessee took a much more diplomatic approach at SEC Media Days last week, refusing to take the bait and cross-fire.
“As I’ve said, we’re self-motivated,” Joshua Dobbs said when asked if there’s extra motivation for the Florida game. “I just heard about it for the first time today, so that shows we’re not really worried about what people outside the program are saying about our program.”
The approach makes sense from both sides on some levels.
Florida has relied on confidence, even intimidation at times, in this 11-year winning streak over Tennessee.
Perhaps Tabor (and coach Jim McElwain since he’s allowing his most outspoken player to be interviewed in the offseason) are hoping to stay in UT’s head all offseason to try and gain that psychological edge again this year in what might be Florida’s biggest challenge in this series in the last dozen years.
And for Tennessee, what is there to say at this point? The Vols have their best roster in quite some time and the Gators come to Knoxville in 2016. It’ll be put-up-or-shut-up time for UT in 2016, and if the Vols can’t win this one, Tabor might be the one who doesn’t shut up for years to come.