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Vol Positions To Watch Against Georgia Tech

 

Tennessee’s matchup in the Chick-fik-A Kickoff Game against Georgia Tech is a few short hours away, but the Vols face a lot of uncertainties as they take the field tonight.

We’re all aware of new starters at quarterback and running back, linebacker positions and more, but what positions should you really keep tabs on tonight?

Quarterback

Simply put, this is the biggest position battle to take place under Butch Jones since he arrived at Knoxville. The good news is that both guys eyeing the full-time job are pretty talented, with junior Quinten Dormady more the pocket passer and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano presenting more mobile abilities. The offense will go as these guys go tonight. Besides looking at the offense’s overall progress, though, look harder at what’s going on the the quarterbacks.

Do the Vols call more running or option plays with Guarantano? Is Dormady pushing the ball farther down the field on throws? Does one quarterback favor Jauan Jennings and the other Tyler Byrd? It’ll be especially interesting how these two play in the second half, when Butch Jones might be looking to find a hot hand to ride to a victory.

Defense End

Most Vol fans are well aware of Jonathan Kongbo’s move back to defensive end, but the guys behind and opposite him are what make this position so intriguing tonight. Former five-star talent Kyle Phillips is behind Kongbo at left end on the depth chart. Phillips was dominant in high school and in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but hasn’t been a big producer under the lights. He’s been behind Derek Barnett and Corey Vereen and faced some injury time, so watch for his appearances tonight.

On the other side of the line, ends Darrell Taylor and Deondre Johnson will try to play contain on Georgia Tech’s misdirection offense. Taylor was another highly touted recruit out of high school, but Johnson has really impressed the coaching staff as a freshmen. There’s a lot of pressure on this group to read keys and be disciplined, and they’ll be stretched sideline to sideline against the Yellow Jackets’ offense.

Linebacker (all of them)

Darrin Kirkland? Out. Austin Smith? Reportedly Out. Where do the Vols turn at linebacker? Well, Colton Jumper, for starters. The senior played a ton of time last season, and despite being out-classed at times, Jumper gives as much (if not more) effort as anyone on the defense. He’ll need to be the physical and vocal leader to get the Vols’ front in order and pushing against the Yellow Jackets’ repeated run attacks. Dillon Bates will see game time tonight, so it’s time to see what Bates’ time on the bench and on special teams has turned into.

Helping those guys will be Quart’e Sapp, Daniel Bituli, Cortez McDowell and Elliot Berry. McDowell and Berry are both in similar situations to Jumper’s, but Berry saw less game time. Berry’s start to the season could take a huge step in the right direction tonight, as he’ll be used in the rotation plenty, especially late in the game. Sapp has faced injuries and Bituli is just a true sophomore, so big plays from them tonight would go a long ways towards their future careers and Bob Shoop’s confidence in the front seven.

Cornerback

Corner might not be the first position that comes to mind when you think of stopping Georgia Tech’s rushing attack, but guys like Justin Martin, Emmanuel Moseley and Rashaan Gaulden need to be physical against the run and disciplined against the pass. The Yellow Jackets’ play-actions plays are so deadly because of their constant threat to run, and the corners and nickel players need to be dialed in on each play to read keys. Young guys Marquill Osborne and Baylen Buchanan, especially, can’t get caught with their eyes in the backfield for too long.

On the other side of the caution, though, comes the bright light at the end of the tunnel. Osborne and Buchanan have a year of playing time under their belts, and seeing a bulk of run plays should help toughen the youngsters. Justin Martin has stepped up as a leader for this group, but he’ll need to show it on the field tonight to keep his unit focused against a disciplined Yellow Jacket attack.

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