Tennessee's game versus UT-Martin won't likely reveal much about the Vols' future success, or lack thereof, this season.
Most likely, UT will win comfortably. Then, all will be left to wonder how good these Vols can be for another week. One won't have to wonder long. September will bring plenty of tough opponents to test UT's mettle.
Yet, there are certainly some aspects of the game worth keeping a keen eye on Saturday. Here are a checklist of five:
1. Neyland Debut – Matt Simms won't have to throw for 300 yards to impress me (but it wouldn't hurt). More importantly, Simms just needs to be calm and poised.
Remember, this is his first game EVER in Neyland Stadium. Nerves will be a factor early, but he'll need to control those quickly. Also, against a team like UT-Martin, he needs to avoid big mistakes, i.e. turnovers. Accuracy is the next thing to look for.
If Tyler Bray gets in the game, don't expect much out of a true freshman. Efficient game management would be enough.
2. Middle Ground – To use a bad pun, Cody Pope is the center of attention. The junior center needs to do three things well: 1. Handle UT's line calls effectively to prevent blitzers from coming free up the middle. 2. Make ZERO mistakes on snaps, especially in the shotgun. 3. Well, block.
Also keep a close eye on right guard Jarrod Shaw. If those two can't dominate UT-Martin, then it could be a long season.
The two probably don't have the chemistry they'd like to have to start the season, but there's no reason to get beat deep by UT-Martin. They are also athletic enough to create a turnover or two.
4. Montori's Mate – There's no question that defensive tackle Montori Hughes has the ability to be a dominant player, even if there have been some questions about his maturity. I firmly believe he'll have a solid – if not breakout – season.
Yet, who plays next to Hughes is still a question. Converted end Gerald Williams is too light to be a full-time defensive tackle in the SEC. Will another defensive tackle step up?
5. Dooley's Duty – Head coach Derek Dooley has preached discipline and maturity on and off the field. Will his players play like that or will a young, inexperienced group feel the pressure? We'll know Saturday.