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SEC key players: Florida rookies filling big cleats in attempt t - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports

Time:2016-11-18 05:34Shoes websites Click:

Florida Gators LSU football LSU Tigers college football College Football Playoff

(RNN) – The SEC East champion will probably be decided by Saturday afternoon, signaling an end to 12 confusing weeks of determining who will get crushed by the Crimson Tide on Dec. 5.

The leader in the SEC's worse half, Florida, faces a tough test when they travel to Baton Rouge and take on Leonard Fournette and LSU. The Gators normally rely on a stalwart defense to compensate for their lukewarm offense, but this weekend things could be different.

Florida is reeling from injuries, particularly in the center of its defense. Unfortunately for them, that’s where the Tigers like to pounce. A pair of rookie linebackers are going to be tasked with slowing down the Bayou Bengals' explosive running backs. Gulp. 

If the Gators lose, they’ll give up their lead in the East, and Tennessee will have a chance to clinch.

The Vols host a hapless Missouri team this weekend, and next week they play a better-but-still-bad Vanderbilt. With a Florida loss, Tennessee will take control of its destiny in the East, and the remaining schedule favors a trip to Atlanta and a boost to graduating quarterback Joshua Dobbs' legacy. 

Florida Gators at LSU Tigers

Linebackers David Reese and Kylan Johnson have big shoes to fill this weekend when they replace leading tacklers Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone.

Davis and Anzalone, who previously manned the middle of the Florida defense, accounted for 25 and 22 solo tackles respectively before being sidelined by injuries.

Reese and Johnson officially took up the defensive mantle last week. In their first career starts, the pair made contributions in the Gators’ 20-7 win against South Carolina. Reese came away with a game-high 11 tackles. Johnson made 7 of his own.

But they’ll face stiffer competition this weekend against LSU and star running back Leonard Fournette.

The Tigers already love pounding the rock, and they’ll likely double down on that strategy to challenge Florida’s newbies and banged-up interior defense. Fournette and spunky second-stringer Derrius Guice are going to be a handful for Reese, Johnson and Florida’s defense, which is also missing its leading tackler and safety, Marcus Maye (29 solo tackles).

Reese and Johnson cannot afford to be wet behind the ears against a healthy Fournette.

Reese and Johnson will be the first line of defense against the running game, and their ability to dampen LSU’s average 233 rushing yards per game is crucial to victory.

Missouri Tigers at Tennessee Volunteers

Dobbs used his arms and legs to rack up 370 yards and five touchdowns in Tennessee’s week-11 win over Kentucky.

His 147 yards on the ground made him his team’s leading rusher on the season. Dobbs’ 470 yards for the year beat out his now-former teammate Jalen Hurd’s 451. Behind those players, Tennessee has two more running backs with 400 yards on the stat sheet, which is a column of digits that tells the story of the Vols’ inconsistent season.

Dobbs has made a habit in his career of using his feet. 

But Rocky Top is still playing for something. If Florida falls to LSU earlier in the day, the Volunteers’ game against Mizzou on Saturday suddenly means a lot more. A win against the Tigers and then cross-state rival Vandy next week would earn Tennessee a spot in the SEC Championship and a rematch against much-hated rival Alabama.

The orange-and-white team will certainly have an eye on the score of the LSU-Florida game, which kicks off more than two hours before their showdown. They can probably afford to because they’re 16-point favorites against Missouri.

But, to stave off an upset at the hands of distraction, Dobbs ought to try and repeat his performance against Kentucky. His team, which has had no other identity than unreliable, has the tools to rebrand themselves as a physical running club in the quarterbacks’ final few games.

If it happens, it will start with his leadership and on his legs.

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