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Know Your Foe: Tennessee

Game 4: Buffalo at Tennessee

When: Saturday, Oct 1, 201

Where: Neyland Stadium

Series History: This is the first meeting of these two teams.

Tickets: Get them right here

One of the hazards of Mid-Majordom is that you can't get the big boys to come play at your place, but you can get a nice big fat check. Usually it's blood money but the exposure and chance at making some noise tends to be worth it. Every once and awhile a mid major jumps up and destroys one of the big boys. This probably won't be one of those times but it will sure be fun to watch UB try.

The Volunteers are still recovering from the Kiffin 'era' a short but very disturbing chapter in Tennessee history.  Derek Dooley, unlike some recent coaches brings impeccable ethics to his team. Being in the SEC it may take them awhile to climb out of their hole but the school has the history and profile needed to rise from the depths in which they currently find themselves.

Last year might have been the year where an average non-aq school might have had a shot at the Vol's. Derek Dooley decided to make his first stand behind many of the younger players that he inherited. It was such a young squad that this year there is only one senior on offense and seven of the twelve starters this season are likely going to be sophomores. On the other side of the Ball there are a whopping four seniors on a unit that will likely get real contributions from several true freshmen. 

Tennessee on offense

They are going to live or die on the maturity of four sophomore linemen. Last season the line was pretty bad. Not only were they ineffective but the coaching staff never let them stay together long enough to really get a feel for each other. Does random line shuffling sound familiar to anyone else?

Historically Dooley, who's last job was at Louisiana Tech, runs a multiple or pro set offense but he is a pragmatist. Depending on what he sees on a team talent wise, and what his opponents are bringing he will tune the offense. Typically he likes to utilize the run from whatever system he settles on (Multiple really is the best word for what he does).

"He got the tight ends the ball, then he'd run the ball, and we'd do things that could keep us in the game. He would bring up great schemes that would help us, and we didn't really throw it around a lot, but we didn't necessarily have the quarterback with the arm to do it. It wasn't that he didn't want to do it, we just didn't have the personnel to do it. He just did what worked." -- Former Vols Receiver Ahmad Paige

Tyler Brey will be behind center. Last year the quarterback competition looked like an episode of survivor and Brey was the last man standing. Great arm and so-so decision making was impressive enough to finish the season as the starter.

With a better line in front of him he may cut down the picks and become a very dangerous passing threat. What he will never be is a running threat, they leave that to Tauren Poole.

Poole got his first crack at a run heavy offense last year and he was solid. More than a thousand yards and 5.1 per carry, a lot of that against SEC defenses. He 5-10 and 210 pounds,  has great speed, and is strong enough to break weak tackles. None of his backups have been too dependable, and his line is young, those are about the only two things working against their running game.

Tennessee on Defense:

The Vol's are running a 4-3 this season, or at least they have been throughout the off season. But Dooley treats the defense like he does the offense. He is not married to any system, the Vols are running the 4-3 because it is what suits them, if something changes or they see something they can exploit they will change it up. What Tennessee does is stick to is their philosophy. It all starts by messing with the Quarterback.

The defense is a descendant of the Tampa Two. So Middle linebacker Austin Johnson will be the guy who makes or breaks the defense (as of early August he was slated to start). The converted fullback measures up at 6-2 and 235, a good size for a linebacker in that system. He is a solid hitter with the speed needed to cover most tight ends.

The only major thing that their defense lacks is a dependable pass rush. The front four all over the place last season. When they were on they could set up camp in the backfield but they were inconsistent enough to let several teams sit back and pick them apart. The secondary is good enough to mess with most quarterbacks. The passing game might hinge on how UB deals with the underneath coverage against the linebackers.


Pain (Big Loss): Maybe I'm just basing this on the fact that UT is an SEC team, or on the fact Buffalo was an awful MAC team last year. While I think the Bulls may have come further in the off season that UT did the Vol's had a huge head start. Ohio gave them fits a couple of years ago but thats when the Bobcats were MAC East Champs.

Against the Big East teams UB can hope that the several players they have who are good enough to play in that conference can carry the Bulls. Here, not so much.

The Bulls Can Win if:

If the Tight Ends, and backs, have a great day in the passing game. UB might be able to move the ball a bit if the run and short passes make the UT secondary respect the non wide receivers.

On the defensive side of things the Bulls need to rattle Brey who in the past has been susceptible to some pretty bad decision making. That means Means and the offensive line have to occupy enough of the line to let the linebackers get pressure against the Quarterback.

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