Tennessee star Derek Barnett completely manhandled the Florida Gators
The drought is over. Tennessee finally beat Florida for the first time since 2004, and the Vols’ shocking second-half dominance of the Gators occurred without UT’s best cornerback or its best two linebackers.
But the Vols had Derek Barnett, and man, did he deliver with one of the best performances of any player so far this season.
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound junior was the biggest reason why the Vols held UF to three-and-outs on seven of their eight series in the second half. Barnett had two sacks, three more QB pressures and one pass broken up after the half as UT outscored the Gators 35-7. The Vols came off the field after the second quarter to a shower of boos.
“It was just Derek saying, ‘Climb on my back, I got this,’” Vols defensive coordinator Bob Shoop told FOX Sports Saturday night. “I’m not sure I’ve ever had a player take over a game quite like he did for us."
Shoop said that during a midweek practice Barnett called out several of his teammates for not responding to coaching. “That’s what the alpha male is supposed to do," Shoop said. "What he did for the team this week I’ll never forget. It was pretty impressive.”
Barnett’s leadership reminded Shoop of the coach’s first meeting with the Vols this spring after he was introduced to the UT players after coming over from Penn State.
"I look forward to connecting with you guys over the next couple of weeks," Shoop told the players.
"By the time I got back to my office, Derek Barnett was sitting right there waiting for me," Shoop told me. "He goes, ‘We gotta get this thing to the next level. You gotta get us there. You can’t be nice to these guys. We gotta push these guys.’ He’s got that mentality. Intense. Focused. I liked everything he said.”
Shoop loved how Barnett backed up that talk even more on Saturday against the Gators.