What to expect from UT Martin

Tennessee's season opener with UT Martin will be a game of a lot of unknowns. InsideTennessee.com caught up with UT Martin beat writer Matt Vines of the Jackson Sun to get an "Inside" early look at the Skyhawk football team.

Tennessee's season opener with UT Martin will be a game of a lot of unknowns.

InsideTennessee.com caught up with UT Martin beat writer Matt Vines of the Jackson Sun to get an "Inside" early look at the Skyhawk football team.

It appears that Saturday's game with UT Martin will have two inexperienced offensive units taking the field at Neyland Stadium in the season opener for both teams.

"UT Martin is very inexperienced on offense," Vines said. "They will start a new quarterback this fall, they have a lot of inexperience on the offensive line, only two starters return."

Sounds familiar, except for the fact that Martin has two returning starters on the offensive line compared to no starters for the Vols.

McKenzie, Tenn., native Derek Carr, a junior signal caller for the Skyhawks appears to have won the starting nod at the quarterback position.

"Martin will definitely run the football a lot out of a pro-set style offense," Vines said. "They will also have a lot of play action passes set up by the success of their run game. Martin will need to run the ball successfully for their offense to have success."

Vines calls the Skyhawk's starting running back Jason McNair a D1 talent but somewhat undersized. The sophomore running back is listed at 5-foot-9 and 192 pounds.

"McNair is quick," Vines said. "He is a little undersized to be a major D1 guy, but he is a great runner. If he gets an opening he is usually gone."

McNair played in nine games last year and rushed for 61 times for a total of 292 yards and four touchdowns. He was named OVC newcomer of the year last year.

Another area that Martin is young at is at the wide receiver position.

"Coach Simpson calls them young but talented," Vines said. "They need to run the ball well for their offense to click. It will be interesting to see if they can have any success against Tennessee."

One of the Skyhawks' strengths appears to be the defense. They return seven starters on the defense, including a lot of their linemen.

"They've got a lot of experience on the defensive front," Vines said. "That's definitely their strength. Since Tennessee has so much inexperience on offense it will be interesting to see what this defense can do against the Vols."

Two years ago UT Martin traveled to Auburn, where the Skyhawks were in the game in the third quarter with the score tied at 20-20.

"This defensive unit is probably as good as that team in 2008," Vines said. "The one weakness is their secondary."

Even though Martin returns seven starters from their defense in 2009, it's a unit that gave up an average of 30 points a game.

"The Martin coaching staff has made a big deal in fall camp about the defense having to improve each practice and each game," Vines said. "This group has a lot of experience but everyone realizes they must improve a lot over last year's unit. They can't afford to give up 30 points a game again this season."

Another bright spot on the defensive side of the ball is senior linebacker Josh Bey, who finished last season with 107 tackles.

According to Vines, a lot of the Martin players are looking forward to the opener against Tennessee.

"Carr is taking the attitude it's just another ball game," Vines said. "A lot of the Martin players have friends and family that are big UT Vol fans. It should be interesting. I think a lot of the players are excited about getting the opportunity to play the University of Tennessee."

Stay tuned to InsideTennessee.com for continued coverage and breakdowns of the UT Martin football team throughout the week.


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