The Tennessee Volunteers were crushed by Missouri last Saturday night and the game proved to be the final straw for Butch Jones. The Vols are now 0-6 this season in conference play, and with a hot LSU Tigers squad coming to town, it should be a tough one for Tennessee to try to rebound in.
If the Vols want to pull off the upset, here’s how they’ll have to do it.
Contain LSU linebackers
The reigning SEC defensive player of the week, Devin White, was a monster in LSU’s win over Arkansas last week. White recorded 14 tackles and a tackle for loss. The Tigers are known for their linebackers and White will be the next great one to make his way to the NFL.
Senior Donnie Alexander is another great linebacker for the Tigers. In the win over Arkansas on Saturday, Alexander recorded 12 tackles and a fumble recovery.
The two stud linebackers have combined for 152 tackles on the season, even with Alexander missing a game. Arden Key is the grittiest player on the team, and he missed the first two games of the season due to injury. Key ignites the back end of the LSU defense, and the Tigers come ready to play for him every game.
Key has four sacks in eight games, and has recorded 33 tackles thus far. Key won’t load up that stat sheet with tackles, especially since his counterparts do a great job of that. However, Key will be involved in every play, whether he is shedding blocks or hyping up the crowd.
Stack the box
LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has been able to keep his job due to the realization that Matt Canada does in fact know what he is doing. Canada and the offense had a rocky couple of games in the first half of the season, mainly due to Orgeron trying to dip his hand in the offensive cookie jar.
Orgeron, after the team struggled throwing the ball against Syracuse, admitted he intervened in Canada’s offense and tried play calling in the first half against Troy. Later, he admitted he was wrong and gave him back play-calling duties after the Tigers trailed 0-10 at half.
The point is, the Tigers figured out the recipe for success. Winning four out of its last five games, LSU discovered handing the ball off to running back Derrius Guice was its best chance to win.
Quarterback Danny Etling has only attempted 16 or more passes twice since the loss suffered against Troy. Etling was forced in to 26 passes against Alabama, as they stacked the box and made him uncomfortable the whole game. A heavily depleted Alabama defense held the Tigers to 151 rushing yards on 42 carries.
Involve Tyler Byrd
Something Jones always seemed to flirt with, but never actually attempt once it came game time was making Tyler Byrd a priority.
Whether it is on offense, defense, or special teams, interim head coach Brady Hoke needs to make sure Byrd is involved in the game. Byrd is a game-breaker, and that’s the reason he came to the Vols — to be utilized in order to take down big time conference opponents like LSU.
Byrd was a highly coveted player that Jones moved to the offensive side of the ball in order to receive more playing time. The sophomore has big play potential and has been seeing the field lately, but Hoke needs to make sure Byrd is happy by season’s end.
Byrd, who was criticized for sending a controversial tweet earlier in the season, has every right to be upset on Rocky Top. Byrd was sold playing time at Tennessee, and hasn’t received what he was pitched.
The whole reason Jones got Byrd on Rocky Top was because he was sold playing time. Byrd was the No. 1 cornerback of the 2016 class. He was also the No. 35 overall player in the class, and if not this season, the new coach at Tennessee needs to make sure that Byrd gets reps on defense before next season.
Control the ball
Something Tennessee hasn’t been able to do in the past couple games, mainly due to the injury to Jarrett Guarantano, is maintain time of possession. If not, the Tigers will punish them in the same fashion.
LSU has explosive playmakers, similarly to the Vols, but both of the team’s issues are getting the ball to those players — the reason why the Tigers brought in Canada at the beginning of the season.
Tennessee’s struggles on offense have been giving Volunteers fans headaches all season, with Tennessee having cycled through three quarterbacks this season due to injuries.
Tennessee offensive coordinator Larry Scott has to prove the offensive woes are due to Jones’ offense and not his own. Scott, in order to keep his job this season and beyond, will have to prove the offensive problems were not due to him.
Scott will have to groom his young true freshman quarterback Will McBride and only allow him to throw about 15-20 times in this game. John Kelly will have to be a workhorse to give Tennessee a chance in this game. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Kelly has been one of the only bright spots this season for the team.
Stop Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams
Tennessee has to keep Derrius Guice off the field, as he fuels the LSU offense. Guice was a heisman candidate heading into the season, and although his production has gone down from last year, Guice is still a forced to be reckoned with.
Darrel Williams, Guice’s backup running back, has nearly the same production as Guice this season with about 50 less carries. The two backs have combined for 15 touchdowns and 1,500 yards on the ground.
Guice is dynamic in every aspect of the game, whether it is on the ground, through the air, or yes — even on special teams — just ask Louisville kicker Blanton Creque.
Featured image courtesy of LSU Athletics
Edited by Seth Raborn