Tennessee was supposed to face Masoli in Game 2 vs. Oregon. He was tabbed the first-team All-Pac 10 quarterback as a junior with the Ducks in 2009. When he was suspended for the 2010 season, however, Masoli promptly transferred to Ole Miss. So, instead of facing him in Game 2, the Vols will face him in Game 10.
"When we were watching film for Oregon we saw a lot of him," Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker said this week. "It was just ridiculous how fast he was. Most quarterbacks that are scramblers try to get out of the pocket and run. He can get out of the pocket and make plays with his arm."
That ability reminds Walker of another top-notch quarterback the Vols faced in recent years.
"Tim Tebow was (another) one of those guys that if he got out of the pocket he could make plays with his arm," Walker noted. "Masoli's just a great, dynamic player. He can take it the distance any time he gets out of the pocket, so we have to take it on our shoulders upfront that we have to have lane integrity."
One Vol knows from personal experience how difficult Masoli is to contain. That would be defensive tackle Malik Jackson,a USC transfer who spent considerable time chasing Masoli last fall as a member of the Trojan defense.
"When he went to Oregon he was really good," Jackson recalled. "He kind of beat us that year I was there (Southern Cal) by himself. I'm really interested to see what he does against us."
Masoli's greatest gift is his versatility. He has completed 57.3 percent of his passes this fall for 1,521 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also has run for 446 yards (4.8 per carry) and 4 touchdowns. For what it's worth, Tebow averaged just 4.2 yards per carry for Florida last fall.
In addition to his skills running the ball and throwing the ball, Masoli is unusually adept at handling the ball. Determining whether he is making the hand-off or faking the hand-off is another challenge Vol defenders will be facing Saturday afternoon.
Asked what he remembers most about Masoli from last year's USC-Oregon game, Jackson replied: "He just ran their offense really good. You didn't know if he had the ball or didn't. He's hard to bring down. He's really fast. You've got to keep him boxed in and contained."
Basically, Masoli is unlike any quarterback Tennessee has faced all year. And he directs an Ole Miss attack that is unlike any Tennessee has faced all year. The Vols' head man concedes as much.
"These guys run a bunch of formations," Derek Dooley said. "There's no real continuity in their plays, so you have to play sound, good football across the board and good gap control. And then what makes it extra hard is you've got a quarterback who can run.
"They outnumber you because of the quarterback. I think that's what's made it (a successful offense) ... those two things. They're not running the same stuff. It's a new play here, new play there and the ability to have a second runner in the backfield in a quarterback."