The most noticeable change in college football from 2020 to 2021 has been the reemergence of fans in the stadiums. Yes, this is true for all sports. But there’s something different about a chaotic college football stadium. Especially when it’s in primetime and against a divisional rival.
As Tennessee defensive lineman Ja’Quain Blakely said on Tuesday, Tennessee will be walking into a hostile environment in Gainesville on Saturday night. For some players, like freshman wide receiver Walker Merrill, it will be their first opportunity to play on the road in college. In addition, it will be many Tennessee player’s first SEC game in their careers.
“I’m really excited for it, honestly, going into The Swamp,” Merrill said on Tuesday.
While the Tennessee players are anticipating the opportunity to travel to Florida for a primetime SEC game, they also know that they have a task at hand. Tennessee will be facing a massive uphill battle, shown by its substantial underdog status. Even though Florida lost to Alabama last weekend, they are still ranked in the Top 15 in the country.
One of the biggest question marks surrounding the Tennessee program this week has been the status of the Vols’ quarterbacks. The health of Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton III remains unclear after Vols head coach Josh Heupel spoke around the topic on Monday.
Before speaking with the media on Tuesday, the Tennessee players did have practice in the morning. Video highlights of Tennessee’s workout can be found here. In addition, Tennessee defensive line coach Rodney Garner also spoke to the media about the Vols’ upcoming trip to Gainesville.
Tennessee (2-1) will take on No. 11 Florida (2-1) in The Swamp this Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Tennessee WR Walker Merrill
“I’m really excited for it, honestly, going into The Swamp,” Merrill said to the media on Tuesday. “There’s a few guys that have been here (a couple years) that haven’t been to The Swamp, and I’m blessed enough to be able to go in there as a freshman. I’m very excited. We haven’t been away yet, (so) I haven’t had people in my ear, screaming at me, all that stuff. I’m really excited to be in that atmosphere because I knew I wanted to experience it. I think it’s going to be really cool.”
Tennessee DL Ja’Quain Blakely
“I’m telling my teammates that haven’t been, this is going to be a hostile game,” Blakely said on Tuesday. “There’s going to be a lot of noise, there’s going to be a lot of crowd, a lot of talking. Just keep your cool and composure. That’s the best thing you can do, play your game because the crowd is going to be into it as they always are. It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be very intense, but it’s going to be a great game as long as we keep our mind straight and keep going.”
Tennessee DE Byron Young
“I’m really excited, first SEC game, on the road,” Young said on Tuesday. “This is why I came to Tennessee, to compete. I feel like it’s going to be a pretty good atmosphere so I’m ready for it, honestly.”