Tennessee Offensive Personnel
The freshman quarterback tandem of Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge had nice debuts against UNLV two weeks ago. The fleet footed, 6-2, 195 pound Schaeffer, labeled "little Vick," can certainly cause headaches for defensive coordinators this year. He has a very nice touch but seemed most dangerous when he was on the run. He completed 7 of 10 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, while running for another touchdown. Ainge, while not a mobile quarterback, is not a terrible athlete. The 6-6, 200 pounder, showed that he has the ability to move outside the pocket and throw the ball. Ainge was 10 of 17 passing for 118 yard and two touchdowns. He is more of a drop back style quarterback than Ainge but both have a nice touch on the ball. Watching the game film of the UNLV game it was easy to see that the Vols made the game plan ultra simple for the young quarterbacks. Every pass was a hot read, meaning the throw had an intended receiver before the ball was snapped. It was very apparent that neither quarterback looked at anything but the intended receiver on every single pass play in the game. I believe we will see this duplicated on Saturday, but it's possible the coaches implemented a vanilla game plan in anticipation of the Gator game this weekend.
Running back by committee is something we will see out of the Vols, although senior starter Cedric Houston is the best back on campus. Watching the game film, the 6-0, 220 Houston looked like the best player on the team. He reads blocks well especially following blockers down field. He gets a lot of yards by riding the coat tails of his linemen or fullback down the field. Gerald Riggs, the 6-0, 220 junior is no slouch himself. While not as elusive as Houston he is brings some power and lots of ability to the position. Senior Jabari Davis is another big back at 6-0, 230. He provides even more power in the sort yardage game. Houston seems like the only real home run threat of the bunch, but they are a great group.
The Vols have a stable of capable receivers, but will they see the ball? They play three wide receiver sets and often run out of them. Still, the talent is there if Fulmer decides to ever use it. The receiving corps is very similar to that of the Gators. They have a very "reliable" senior in 6-2, 200 pound Tony Brown, much like the ever present OJ Small for the Gators. They have a tall and fast junior in 6-4, 195 pound Chris Hannon, much like the Gators Dallas Baker. Hannon is probably a tad faster. After that, are a bunch of young guys that are at least billed as very talented. Still, will they throw the ball? Conservative Phil likes to run as always.
At tight end, 6-7, 275 pound junior Justin Reed will start. A glorified offensive line position on the Vols offense, the tight ends caught one single pass all of last year. Don't look for that to change as the Vols often don't even use a tight end.
The offensive line is a who's who of mammoth past-recruiting five star players. Five star linemen like Michael Munoz, Jason Respert, and Arron Sears all start for the Volunteers. They are a big group and not overly athletic. The entire offensive line has only 5 total letter winners returning, so experience is very thin. The left side is anchored by all-SEC candidate Munoz and sophomore Robert Smith. Along with all-SEC candidate Jason Respert, the whole left side of the line really communicates well when blocking and in pass protections. The breakdowns seem to occur more on the right side of the line. While the Tennessee offensive line may be the best line the Gators see this year, I don't find them particularly impressive.
In a nutshell…
Tennessee wants to run the ball. With Houston it looked easy especially against a very poor tackling UNLV team. I'm not buying the quarterbacks just yet. They will be good in time and have some fine ability, but they never looked to a second receiver in their first game. The coaches at UT put them in an easy position to not mistakes and get the ball to the playmakers. I think this could be a good game for our safeties as they anticipate the hot routes the quarterbacks throw to.
Tennessee Defensive Personnel
The defensive line is a shell of its former self. Gone are the days of the huge tackles like John Henderson. The Vols used to dominate inside with both size and speed. This year the best talent lies on the outside edge in defensive ends Parys Haralson and Karlton Neal. Still, no one will mistake these guys for All-Americans. They are solid but not spectacular. The junior college transfer Jesse Mahelona had a good game vs. over-matched UNLV. The 6-2, 300 Mahelona had 4 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in his first start.
The linebacker corps is probably the strength of the entire team. All three were starters last year and all three finished in the top five in tackles for the first game. Kevin Simon and Kevin Burnett are especially disruptive players and both finished last year as 2nd team all-SEC players. They fly around and are often asked to attack the backfield by blitzing the quarterback.
The Vol's secondary is somewhat of a mess. They can put whatever spin they want on it, but you don't change three starters in your secondary after playing a bad team unless you have some major problems. Two juniors with some experience man the safety spots. Brandon Johnson, a 6-1, 200 pounder will play alongside ex-cornerback Jason Allen. The 6-2, 200 pound Allen is the best player in the secondary. The corner back spots are manned by freshman Jonathan Hefney (5-10, 172), and sophomore Jonathan Wade (6-0, 185).
In a nutshell…
If the linebackers are taken out of the game with a game plan, The Tennessee defense is in trouble. Nowhere else on the field do they have steady playmakers. The defensive ends, while good, are not what we are used to seeing at Tennessee. The tackles are even farther. The defensive backs will look natural with their heads spinning as people run deep routes on them.
Dustin Colquit is the league's best punter. He averaged 45.3 yards a punt last year and 51.5 yards per punt two weeks ago.
Place kicker James Wilholt was a freshman All-American last year after making 17 of 25 field goals last year.
Freshman Jonathan Hefney almost returned a punt for a touchdown last week and he will be the punt returner.
Senior Corey Larkins has returned 50 kickoffs for an average of 21.6 yards in his career.
In a nutshell…
Tennessee's special teams compare favorably to anyone in the country this season.