Rocky Topics: What does Tennessee need to do to beat Georgia?
As Tennessee prepares for this weekends matchup against No. 7 Georgia, Caleb Souders and Gray LaRose discuss what the Vols need to do in order to send the Bulldogs home with their tail tucked between their legs.
LaRose: I think everyone reading this probably understands the likelihood that Tennessee wins this Saturday are slim-to-none, but there is hope for the Volunteers. Tennessee always plays Georgia close, especially in Neyland. In fact, going back to 2010, every game between the two schools have been decided by less than one score. While I personally dont expect this weekend to be as close, I do believe this Tennessee team has the ability to put up some points.
This weekend comes down to Bob Shoop and the Vols defense. Georgia’s freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm, will be playing in his first road SEC game. Let us not forget that the Neyland Stadium crowd of 102,455 has been known to rattle some of the best quarterbacks in the nation. If Bob Shoop can dial-up some blitz packages to put some pressure on Fromm, and Tennessee fans show their support for team 121, the freshman quarterback can become rattled. Rattling Fromm combined with the Volunteer’s defense, Tennessee has a chance– plus come on, SMOKEY GREY UNIFORMS.
Souders: Gray said it all. Bob Shoop has stepped up on the defensive side of the ball the past couple games, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves — Tennessee’s last two opponents were ranked in the bottom-tier of offenses in the nation. If Tennessee has any shot against No. 7 Georgia on Saturday, it is going to take an extraordinary effort from the defensive line. Shy Tuttle, Kahlil McKenzie, Darrell Taylor and company will have to have stellar games against true freshman Jake Fromm this weekend in order to keep the game in reach, as the offense finds their stride.
LaRose: I agree with Caleb in the fact that the defensive line needs to have a big game, but let’s be honest here — when has the defensive line actually shown up? Other than the Vols seven sacks and 15 tackles-for-a-loss against UMass last weekend, the Vols D-line has been void of a stellar performance. This Bob Shoop blitz heavy defense was supposed to be a dominate force in the SEC East — just like Shoop built at Vanderbilt and Penn State. This weekend is the time for Taylor, Kongbo, Mackenzie and Tuttle to show everyone why they were all so highly touted high school recruits.
Speaking of highly touted recruits, if the Volunteers want to compete this weekend, this game belongs to Quinten Dormady. Jarrett Guarantano will get his time at the University of Tennessee, but against the Bulldogs, Butch Jones needs to stick with the experience. This Georgia defense is nothing to mess with. The Bulldogs have the third best defense in the SEC statistically speaking and are going to create plays against this Tennessee offensive line. As much as I respect the athletic ability Guarantano has, he just isn’t mentally prepared for a game of this magnitude. Tennessee has a chance to walk away with a victory this weekend, but it’s going to take a perfect game on both sides of the ball.
Souders: I both agree, and disagree with Gray on this one. As for the offense, Dormady will certainly get his shot at Georgia on Saturday. I will be the first to say I believed Dormady took the reigns of the team after leading the Vols 93-yards down the field to beat Georgia Tech, but this offense becomes so one-dimensional under Dormady. The Florida game was when this became the most evident. As John Kelly became the only source of offense from Tennessee leading into the fourth quarter, the coaching staff tried to call option run plays and Dormady appeared to be stuck in the mud. With Dormady at the helm, the coaching staff can all, but trash that aspect of the playbook.
If Dormady struggles in his first couple of series and John Kelly looks to be bottled up, do not be shocked if Jarrett Guarantano steps out onto the field early on. This would allow Tennessee to stretch the ball vertically and horizontally with his legs. Guarantano was thrown to the fire last week versus UMass, and the coaching staff will need to do a better job of managing his reps going forward.
As SEC play furthers and the quality of opponent strengthens, Dormady will need to consistently make the elite throws that he made against Florida — such as the wheel-route to Ethan Wolf up the right sideline for a touchdown. The coaching staff needs to realize that with Dormady in the game, they need to stretch the field vertically to have a chance against Georgia. With Jauan Jennings absent, wide receivers Marquez Callaway, Josh Palmer, Brandon Johnson, and Tyler Byrd will need to step up exponentially.
The athletes are there for Tennessee, but Dormady needs to deliver the ball to them.
Byrd caught a beautiful eight-yard strike from Dormady right before halftime, and the Vols will need to see more of Byrd on offense this week. Many think this is a game where head coach Butch Jones could be coaching for his job, and a win this week would go a long way in terms of staying put on Rocky Top. Jones must get key players involved this week on offense.