This week, No. 9 Tennessee travels to College Station to take on the No. 8 Texas A&M Aggies. This will be just the third matchup ever between the two and the first since Texas A&M joined the SEC. Both teams are undefeated and are hoping to keep their hopes for the College Football Playoff alive. With that in mind, here are some Tennessee players that could play a key role in the game.
Brett Kendrick, Offensive Linemen
Everyone will be watching this game to see how Myles Garrett and Derek Barnett — the two best pass rushers in the SEC — compare to one another. In order to determine that answer, it is important to keep an eye on redshirt junior Brett Kendrick. He has done a decent job this year — despite being moved from right to left tackle — but he hasn’t faced a player as talented as Garrett. In order for Tennessee to win, they need to shut Garrett down and make sure he isn’t a factor. Kendrick will be tasked with finding a way to get it done. But, if he can do it, it gives the Vols a better chance at leaving Kyle Field with a win.
Colton Jumper, Linebacker
With the absence of Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, junior Colton Jumper has stepped up to lead the depleted group of linebackers. He had a career-high 11 tackles against Georgia last week and has improved each game this year. He is finally starting to show why the coaches were so impressed with him last year. Look for Jumper to continue his improvement and have an even better showing than last week.
John Kelly, Running Back
With Jalen Hurd expected to miss the game, Alvin Kamara will most likely get the start at running back. However, keep an eye out for John Kelly. Only a sophomore, Kelly showed why he was so highly recruited in limited action last year. When he is given the opportunity, he is a great change of pace back. Look for Kelly to have a breakout game and show he is Tennessee’s running back of the future
Derek Barnett, Defensive End
Derek Barnett has been a monster the past two games and that trend will continue against Texas A&M. In the past two weeks alone, the junior defensive end has recorded 10 tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss, four sacks and one forced fumble. He’s on a hot streak and he’ll look to continue it in College Station this weekend. If Butch Jones wants to notch his first win at Tennessee over a top-10 team, Barnett needs to be productive.
Tennessee will take on Texas A&M on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
Edited by Adam Milliken
Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics