After months of recruiting and practices, it is football time in Tennessee.
Like most SEC teams in the past, the Volunteers have tried to schedule an easy matchup to start off the season, so the team gets to experience real game situations without risking the opportunity for a win. It is a practical way to get a team ready to play against tougher opponents throughout the season.
However, this year Tennessee opens against a much different opponent and one with a quarterback primed to be a Heisman finalist. The Utah State Aggies have an offense propelled by Chuckie Keeton, one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the nation.
Keeton’s play is comparable to another “Aggie”, Johnny Manziel. He has a very strong arm, so the Vols will have to defend every blade of grass on the field, but if they leave too many men in coverage, then he will hurt them with his running ability.
In practice, the Volunteers have been using several players, not all of them quarterbacks, to simulate the speed that Keeton has at his disposal.
The task of slowing down Keeton should ultimately come down to Vols team leader A.J. Johnson. In the past, Johnson hasn’t looked especially mobile laterally and has historically been a better between the tackles defender than someone who can stop runs on the edge.
This will be the first time in his career that Johnson has had the same defensive coordinator for two consecutive years. That continuity should help not only Johnson but the defense as a whole.
This could easily end up being a shootout, and if it is, the Volunteers should have a significant advantage.
While the Aggies may have the better quarterback, the Vols have a talented and deep group of receivers and a potentially dominant two-headed running game with Marlin Lane and Jalen Hurd.
This one could go down to the wire, and whether the Vols end up with a win or a loss here, it will set the tone for the entire season.
Edited by Maggie Jones