Scouting the Vols

The Vols invade the Swamp this weekend for the annual battle between the SEC Eastern rivals. The game will be won in the trenches and the Gators will have a tough battle on their hands.

Tennessee has won it's first two games against Fresno State and Marshall. Both teams are pretty good mid major programs and will offer a decent barometer for how good the Vols are going to be. Phil Fulmer has been able to get a lot of injured players back on his defense and has settled on one running back in Cedric Houston. This is the 33rd time these two teams have met and they have each won on each other's home field the last two years. Tennessee comes in ranked No.12 in the country and has a well oiled running game. This game will catapult one of these foes to the top of the SEC East.

Offense:
The Vols are averaging 29 points per game behind senior quarterback Casey Clausen. He has thrown three picks in the first two games but he has five touchdowns and has completed 60% of his passes. James Banks has 11 receptions and 2 touchdowns and is a dangerous deep threat. He is a former quarterback who has really good hands and size. Tony Brown is a possession receiver and Mark Jones is suspect. The biggest weapon missing is Jason Witten, who had a big game last time in the Swamp. He has been replaced by Victor McClure. The Vols are running the ball well behind a veteran offensive line. Michael Munoz is at left tackle and is their best man up front, with familiar names such as Scott Wells, Anthony Herrera and Sean Young . Cedric Houston is averaging 160.5 yards per game while getting them at 7.1 per clip. He looks leaner and faster than he was a year ago. Jabari Davis is the backup who will tote it in short yardage situations. The Vols have been real good on third down at 51%.

Scheme:
The Vols are an "I" formation team who usually likes to run the ball first and then throw it over the top. Against Florida they have used a "mixed bag" over the years depending on how Randy Sanders wants to mess up the gameplan. Tennessee is more of a straight ahead blocking team than Miami. The Volunteers will run the isolation play behind fullback Troy Fleming and also run wide with toss sweep allowing the guards to get out on the edge. Casey Clausen likes to isolate his receivers on fade routes or skinny posts and throw the ball out there for them to go get it. He will throw the ball over the middle of the field.

Gators on the Hot Seat:
Defensive Line: The boys up front will be challenged by a better line than Miami. Tennessee will come off the rock rolling at Florida and the Gators will have to hold up in the middle. Marcus Thomas could play a major role in this game as he seems to be coming on early this season. Maurice Mitchell will always be on the hot seat versus physical running teams. The defensive ends should be OK versus the run but must get pressure on Clausen this week.

Defense:
The defense dominated Fresno State and had it's hands full versus the Marshall Thundeing Herd. The defense has a conference leading 10 sacks through two games. The front line is led by defensive tackle Mondre Dickerson and defensive end Constantin Ritzmann, who did not play due to injury last year. The Vols are 5th in the nation against the run and mostly in part due to playing two "spread-offenses" the first two weeks. Fresno State was held to minus-1 yard. The linebackers have combined for 6 sacks and are led by sophomore Kevin Simon and junior Kevin Burnett. They line up on the outside and make a lot of plays for defensive coordinator John Chavis. The secondary, which struggled a bit against Marshall, is led by cornerback Jabari Greer and safety Rashad Baker. The defense is doing a solid job on third down holding teams to 25% conversion.

Scheme:
Tennessee is a 4-3 team which likes to play a lot of "man-free" coverage. More than 50% of the time they will leave one of UF's outside receivers man to man with a corner and no safety help. Chavis will bring multiple blitzes using the outside linebackers especially strong side man Kevin Simon. The front four will run a lot of "games" with the defensive tackles and ends to try and free up someone in passing downs. Depending on the Gator's running success the Vols may get into some quarters to look and see if Florida's quarterbacks can make plays to beat them. This is a good pass rushing team and they will match their strength versus UF's O-Line.

Special Teams:
Dustin Colquitt is a veteran punter who does a great job of catching and getting the ball off. He is averaging 47 yards per punt. James Wilhoit is a freshman kicker who has struggled so far this season going 3-6 at home early in the season. UF may be able to harass him if need be in the friendly confines of the Swamp. The Vols are averaging 22.8 yards per kick return behind speedster Corey Larkins.

Inside the Numbers:
Tennessee has scored a majority of it's points in the second and third quarter.

UT has won 11 of the last 12 road games going back to 2000.

Four of the last five games have been decided by 4 points or less.

Turnovers could be a key as UF is +1.67 while the Vols are –1. 8 of the last 11 winners have won the turnover battle.

Kevin Simon has 22 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 4 tackles for a loss in two game this season.

Clausen is 26-7 as a starter.

The Vols have lost the last 5 games versus ranked opponents.


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