Listen, I know the Vols are only playing Indiana State today. The Sycamores looked poor in last week’s showing (a loss to Indiana State) and literally might play two quarterbacks, despite one throwing for almost 3,000 yards last year. However, the game is a good opportunity for Tennessee’s young talent to get valuable game snaps in Neyland Stadium before the Vols travel to Florida next week. If nothing else, look for these players to get some confidence building before next week’s big game.
Dormady finished strong in the win over Georgia Tech, but was aided by the impressive play of Marquez Callaway down the stretch. The big pass on the Vols’ game-tying drive was certainly anything but a perfectly placed pass, but Dormady let his receiver go up and make a play. This week, Dormady needs to flip the script and establish and early rhythm so that the offense can muster more than 92 passing yards in the first half. Look for Dormady to spread the ball around and develop his timing with a wide receiving group that’s still got a lot to prove.
Brandon Johnson and Josh Palmer
Tennessee’s receiving outside threats opposite Marquez Callaway never really added a big threat to the Vols’ offense on Monday. Johnson and Palmer combined for just four catches for 21 yards in the absence of leader Jauan Jennings, who’s out indefinitely with a wrist injury. After Callaway’s big game, defenses will be eyeing the sophomore plenty in the upcoming weeks. Johnson and Palmer, listed as co-starters at their receiver position, need to build on plenty of targets this week. The passing game was brutal at times in Atlanta, and things have to get much better before the Vols play Florida. Both guys have plenty of talent, they just need something close to a breakout performance to comfortably settle into the offense.
The senior cornerback was anything but the No. 1 guy for the Vols on Monday. He was missed two really bad tackle attempts to give Georgia Tech big gains and did basically nothing else to announce he was even on the field. We’ve heard so much about his change to a leader role on this defense, but the secondary’s leader can’t be benched because everyone watching the game can see he’s being embarrassed. Martin needs a big game in the worst of ways.
McKenzie had an alright game for the Vols against the Yellow Jackets. But, like most of the rest of the defense, he struggled at times as the interior defense gave up big chunks of yards on the ground. McKenzie’s play Saturday will go a long way towards his confidence in SEC play. Florida’s quarterback situation is a mess, and Jim McElwain doesn’t even know what he’s going to do with it. The Gators don’t have a game to figure things out after cancelling their scheduled game against Northern Colorado in the wake of Hurricane Irma. With the weird QB situation in mind and who knows who coming back from suspension, Florida will likely lean on its run game as much as possible. Having McKenzie at full confidence and full power is a big boost for Tennessee.
The Turnover Trash Can
Just kidding. Mostly. Tennessee saved Monday’s game with two huge fumbles, and the Vols need to continue that tenacity on the defensive side of things if the defense isn’t going to be as shut-down as we had hoped. On the offensive side of the ball, quite the opposite — keep the ball off of the ground and out of the hands of Sycamore defenders.
*insert sad sideline face here* After hearing Butch Jones say again and again that the redshirt freshman would see the field in Mercedez Benz Stadium, he never did. Jones guaranteed we would see him today, so thanks Coach Jones. I’m glad we can expect to see the backup quarterback in a game where Tennessee is favored by at least four touchdowns — I had my doubts before that confirmation.
Seriously, though, at least today’s game should give Guarantano a place to let out all his frustration. The gridiron is a great setting for it, and who knows, maybe an impressive performance could make the quarterback situation less clear as the Vols play Florida. It really looked like JG hated everything and everyone while on the sideline on Monday, so hopefully today is an improvement.