Opposition Danger Men: Tennessee

We have reached the final installment of our opposition danger men preview as the ‘Dores host hated rivals Tennessee in Nashville. With Vanderbilt having taken down the Volunteers in their last two meetings this game has even more spice than normal as the two teams battle to see who the king of the state is. Here are the guys whom the Commodores will have to be most wary of on game day.


Offense: QB – Justin Worley

It is awkward to say but Worley almost wins this honor by default based on how few players the Vols have returning who actually saw significant time last fall. The offensive line is a mess and the running game is in flux, so expect a lot of pressure to be dumped on Worley early in the season.

This of course will be nothing new to Worley who has had a college career blighted by coaching changes and other issues within the Tennessee program. If we are being honest a healthy Worley may have given the Vols a shot at making a bowl game last fall, but he was relegated to the sidelines when a thumb injury took him out in October. It is worth noting though that Worley was hardly setting the world alight to that point in the season. He completed just over 55 percent of his passes and had a very average 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions.

The key with Worley is going to be his protection. With so much youth elsewhere on the field Worley is the key to making this Tennessee offense work. The Vols want to run zone read concepts to open up the pass, but Worley is often and unwilling and ineffective runner. He also has issues throwing the deep ball and can make horrible decisions when under pressure. With all that said the key to this game is going to be the Vandy pass rushers getting into the backfield and making the quarterback’s job impossible.

Defense: LB – A.J. Johnson

The Vol's turnover from last year is felt hard on the defensive side of the ball too. Their front seven defensively returns just one starter, but luckily for Tennessee A.J. Johnson may be the best player on the entire roster.

Johnson is an easy All-Conference pick who could challenge for All-American honors by the end of the year if the rest of the defense can meet his standard. Last fall the 6-foot-two, 245 pound inside linebacker was a one man wrecking crew, notching a monstrous 106 tackles including 8 1/2 tackles for a loss. The senior has the chance to leave the program as the second leading tackler in program history, and with his range, work ethic, and nose for the ball, it is hard to see a scenario where that doesn’t happen.

Having already been named twice to the All-SEC team, Johnson will be looking to end his college career with his best season yet. It is hard to tell at this point just how much help he is going to get from his teammates, and if the defensive tackle rotation is a bust then all bets are off. One thing which is certain though is that Johnson will be using every tool available to him as a leader to motivate his team and try to get the Tennessee defense back to respectability.

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