Tennessee’s players are tired of hearing about how young they are and insist that their youth won’t be an excuse this season.
Well, they’re facing a team on Saturday in the Swamp that’s even younger.
According to Florida’s depth chart, the Gators have 29 freshmen and sophomores among the 44 position players in their two deep.
That’s one more than Tennessee, which according to its most recent depth chart, has 28 freshmen and sophomores listed among its 44 starters and backups.
Auburn’s running a close race with both teams in terms of being the youngest team in the league. The Tigers have 27 freshmen and sophomores listed in their two deep.
Auburn played 13 true freshmen in the season opener, which was the second most nationally behind Texas’ 18. Tennessee played 12 true freshmen, which was tied for third nationally.
Florida played 16 freshmen overall, including nine true freshmen.
Against the Vols, the Gators are slated to start four freshmen -- redshirt freshman receiver Quinton Dunbar, redshirt right offensive tackle Chaz Green, true freshman safety Pop Saunders and true freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson.
The Vols will counter with three true freshmen starters on defense -- outside linebackers A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt and cornerback Justin Coleman.
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley has been pleased with the way his younger guys have gone about their business in the first two games. They've played with confidence and have been loose. But he's also the first to admit that going up against Florida in the Swamp is a whole different ballgame.
“They are not going to back down and they want to be good," Dooley said. "They expect to be good, but they also are like most young players and don’t have a lot of scars on them. It’s hard to really be good consistently without getting some scars, having some bad moments, some screw-ups. That’s what always concerns you. What I don’t want to do is put my own scars on them and it kind of breaks their spirit.
"But at the same time, I don’t want to tell them they’re great, because they’re going to get their tales whipped. So far, they’ve been doing pretty well. I don’t want to mess them up. I’m more nervous than those guys are. Sometimes I wonder if they even know we’re not in the backyard, with a lot of people watching and depending on them.
"They’re just playing, and that’s the way it should be.”