Countdown To Game Day: Tennessee

With a little over 48 hours remaining before 7th ranked Oregon kicks off their contest in Knoxville on Saturday night, we preview what the Volunteers might have in store for the Ducks come game day.

Coming off a 72-point win to open week one of the college football season, the 7th-ranked Oregon Ducks travel to Knoxville, Tenn. this weekend to face a game SEC opponent in the Tennessee Volunteers. Though the football program has fallen on hard times in recent years, first-year head coach Derek Dooley has Volunteer Nation hopeful that the former Louisiana Tech head man can reverse the disturbing trend of mediocrity that has plagued Tennessee lately. The Vols' 50-0 opening weekend home victory over FCS opponent Tennessee-Martin has many folks, including Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, eager to witness what should be a competitive contest at one of college football's most hallowed venues.

"When you go to a place like (Neyland Stadium), you want to play in (big) games like this," said Kelly,

"I remember my first year (at Oregon) we got a chance to go play at want to play against the Tennessee's, the USC's, and Michigan's of the world. We have a tremendous amount of respect for the SEC and a tremendous amount of respect for Tennessee. It's one of the storied football programs. It's Peyton Manning, it's Tee Martin, it's Reggie White, it's Coach Fulmer...our guys are excited to play in front of 100,000 passionate fans."

On offense, the Vols employ two running backs that have caught the eye of Kelly as he's watched them on tape. Junior Tauren Poole and sophomore David Oku combined for 187 yards and 3 touchdowns versus Tennessee-Martin and figure to play a predominant role in Saturday's game.

"Both of their running backs are very, very good," said Kelly,

"Poole and Oku can run. They've got speed and they've got the ability to take it the distance. Obviously, I was impressed with their receiver (Gerald Jones) too before he broke his hand, so it's a little bit of an unknown there."

Additionally, true freshman Rajion Neal could find himself as a regular contributor in the running game Saturday, after gaining 79 yards on 9 carries in his first game as a collegian. Though talented, this trio of backs runs behind a skilled, yet relatively green offensive line that broke in four new starters in week one. While many may view this as a point of weakness, Kelly was impressed with what he saw on film from the Volunteer offensive line in the Tennessee-Martin game.

"They did a nice job," said Kelly, "We only got one game (to see) and a lot of those guys are freshmen, but they did a really nice job against Tennessee-Martin...and they're big. They're really, really big across the front."

Three other offensive players for Tennessee that Duck fans should keep an eye on throughout Saturday's game is quarterback Matt Simms, tight end Luke Stocker, and wide receiver Denarius Moore.

Defensively, Kelly pointed out that the Volunteers' starting defensive line and linebacker units are particularly strong, led by senior defensive end Chris Walker and senior linebacker Nick Reveiz.

"Their front seven is very impressive," stated Kelly, "they're very athletic. We know Malik Jackson a little bit because he's a USC transfer -- I thought he played a really good game (vs. Tennessee-Martin) -- all three linebackers are solid, so it's a talented group and we're going to be tested."

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