While there is still a long way to go to on both sides of the football to compete week in and week out in the Southeastern Conference in terms of depth and talent, this Tennessee team has shown the ability to put it all together in 2013.
Taking Georgia to the wire at home in early October before falling 34-31 thanks to a late touchdown pass from Aaron Murray, the Vols got the job done two weeks later following an off-week as they took down South Carolina 23-21. A different team at home this season (4-1) than on the road (0-4), Tennessee will be looking to a true freshman to lead the offense following a 31-3 beating at the hands of Missouri last weekend in Columbia.
Making his first start last weekend after being forced into action against Alabama the week before with an injury to starter Justin Worley, true freshman Joshua Dobbs is a talented young player just now getting his feet wet in the Southeastern Conference. Capable of making plays with his feet as well as with his arm, the lanky Alpharetta, Ga. ,native has completed 31-54 passes for 315 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions this season.
Adding 64 yards rushing on 10 carries, Dobbs has only shown glimpses of his running ability, but it wouldn't be surprising to see much more of that this weekend as he becomes more comfortable in Tennessee's more up-tempo offense with him at the helm.
He should make the running game for the Vols stronger as tailback Rajion Neal has been forced to carry the load so far along with help from backup Marlin Lane. Running for 771 yards and nine touchdowns on 153 carries, Neal is a very capable back. Lane has added 397 yards and four touchdowns on 69 attempts to give the Vols a solid one-two punch.
When Dobbs puts the ball in the air there is a good chance he will target either speedy Alton "Pig" Howard or big freshman Marquez North. With 36 receptions for 344 yards and three touchdowns, Howard is the veteran of the bunch and is a playmaker despite his small size. North is the true big-play threat for the Vols with 32 catches for 436 yards and a touchdown. Big Jason Croom is also someone to keep an eye on for Tennessee with 13 grabs for 177 yards and a touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball the unquestioned leader and top player for the Vols is big junior linebacker A.J. Johnson. Leading the team with 76 tackles with four and a half tackles for losses, Johnson is a physical player in the middle of a Tennessee defense that is one of the worst in the country at stopping the run. Allowing 201.7 yards per game on the ground, the Vols need more production from the rest of the defense moving forward.
On the defensive line massive Daniel McCullers (6-8, 351) can eat up plenty of space and has 25 tackles and four and a half tackles for losses this season. At end former linebacker signee Marlon Walls leads the team with four and half of Tennessee's 12 total sacks this season while sharing time with Corey Miller.
With 12 interceptions on the season, the Tennessee secondary has been perhaps the most productive part of the Volunteer defense in the first nine games. Brian Randolph (53 tackles, three interceptions) and true freshman Cameron Sutton (28 tackles, two interceptions) have stepped up their play as has speedy cornerback Justin Coleman.
Kicker/punter Michael Palardy is one of the best in the league, averaging 44.5 yards per punt with 23 downed inside the 20-yard line this season. Connecting on 10-12 field goals, he has a long of 51 yards with the only misses coming from 46 and 52 yards.
LT 74 Antonio Richardson 6-6 327 Jr.
65 Jacob Gilliam 6-4 287 R-Jr.
C 64 James Stone 6-3 291 Sr.
57 Mack Crowder 6-2 280 R-So.
RG 72 Zach Fulton 6-5 323 Sr.
71 Dylan Wiesman 6-3 308 Fr.
RT 70 Ja'Wuan James 6-6 318 Sr.
77 Kyler Kerbyson 6-4 306 R-So.
WR 8 Marquez North 6-4 215 Fr.
87 Jacob Carter 6-0 190 R-Jr.
WR 2 Pig Howard 5-8 185 So.
19 Devrin Young 5-8 171 Jr.
WR 18 Jason Croom 6-5 223 R-Fr. OR
25 Josh Smith 6-1 193 Fr.
QB 11 Joshua Dobbs 6-3 193 Fr.
10 Riley Ferguson 6-3 181 Fr,
TB 20 Rajion Neal 5-11 212 Sr.
15 Marlin Lane 5-11 205 Jr.
29 Tom Smith 5-11 220 R-So
DT 98 Daniel McCullers 6-8 351 Sr.
93 Gregory Clark 6-2 327 R-Jr.
NG 97 Daniel Hood 6-4 277 R-Sr.
95 Danny O'Brien 6-2 287 R-Fr.
DE 80 Corey Miller 6-3 265 Sr.
58 Marlon Walls 6-2 272 R-Sr.
WLB 41 Dontavis Sapp 6-2 227 Sr.
52 Christian Harris 6-1 240 R-So.
MLB 45 A.J. Johnson 6-3 243 Jr.
47 John Propst 6-0 219 Sr.
CB 27 Justin Coleman 5-10 184 Jr.
22 Malik Foreman 5-10 177 Fr.
SS 37 Brian Randolph 6-0 199 R-So.
46 Max Arnold 5-11 188 R-So.
CB 23 Cameron Sutton 6-1 180 Fr.
9 Reggie Juin 5-7 173 R-Sr.
NK 35 JaRon Toney 5-10 184 R-Jr.
13 Devaun Swafford 5-11 184 Fr.