Tennessee Vols head coach Josh Heupel was asked by a caller during Vol Calls on Wednesday night about the biggest keys to beating the Florida Gators in Neyland Stadium on Saturday.

Somewhat surprisingly, Heupel didn’t give a cliché coach-speak type answer.

Instead, he gave the caller four specific things the Vols need to do to beat Florida.

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Sep 10, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Tennessee Volunteers defensive linemen Byron Young (6) and Tyler Baron (9) celebrate a defensive stop against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the fourth quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Tennessee won 34-27 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Two of Heupel’s keys had to do with the offensive side of the ball and two of them had to do with the defensive side of the ball.

  • Create turnovers
  • Tackle well and don’t let Gators QB Anthony Richardson escape the pocket
  • Don’t turn the ball over on offense
  • Run the ball effectively

“We’ve got to play harder than our opponent and do it for longer during the course of the game,” said Heupel. “That sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s tough to do that, the physical and mental maturity that it takes. We’ve got to do a really good job of taking care of the football and creating turnovers, and those are two things that I talk about inside of our team room, really, every single day.”

“Those are two big keys,” explained Heupel. “I think it’s important that we just don’t go up and down during the course of the ball game. We reset and play each play. We’re going to have to tackle well on the defensive side of the football, and that’s with their skill players in space, it’s with their quarterback. We can’t let him get outside of the pocket. That’ll be a big part of the football game. Offensively we’ve got to be able to run the football and create some big plays in the pass game.”

Ok, so there might be a little coachspeak in there. Running the ball effectively and playing hard are things teams talk about every week.

But I thought Heupel’s comments about keeping Richardson in the pocket and creating turnovers were revealing.

Everyone knows Richardson is a threat to run. Heupel and his staff obviously want to keep him in the pocket, where he’s not as comfortable.

The best way to do that is by spying Richardson, something Kentucky did when they beat the Gators a couple of weeks ago (Richardson rushed for just four yards in that game, though he was banged up a bit as well).

Creating turnovers can be viewed as coachspeak, but I don’t think that’s the case this week. The Vols have played some soft coverages against teams early in the season. But they might be more aggressive this week. I’m guessing they don’t believe in Richardson’s ability to beat them with his arm.

If the Vols can pressure Richardson — who has been instructed by Florida’s coaches to try to avoid big hits — then they could force him into some bad decisions.

This game really feels like it’s shaping up to be a multi-score win for the Vols.

Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK