A.J. Johnson has already proved he is one of the best linebackers in the country with his outstanding play this season, and the senior standout will have to keep up the same level of play against a Kentucky team that has rushed for 1,595 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns this season.
The Butkus semifinalist has 96 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and an interception on the season. He is averaging a whopping 10.7 tackles again, and will likely have to keep up that level of production in order to shut down a talented Kentucky offense.
The Wildcats utilize a backfield-by-committee approach that averages 159.5 rushing yards per game. They have a three headed monster of a running attack that features leading freshman rusher Stanley Williams, who has 361 yards and four total touchdowns, junior Braylon Heard, who has 335 yards and four touchdowns, and sophomore Jojo Kemp, who has 313 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns. Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles could also be involved in the rushing attack today, as he has rushed for 266 yards and five touchdowns on the season.
Jojo Kemp, a speedy sophomore running-back from Florida, can be a huge threat when he lines up at quarterback in the wildcat. Earlier this season, he burned South Carolina for 131 yards and three touchdowns on only 17 carries, with most of his carries coming out of the wildcat. He is also a threat to pass out of the wildcat, although his only pass attempt this season was intercepted.
For Tennessee to have success today, A.J. Johnson and the Vols defense will have to dismantle Kentucky’s ground game and force Kentucky into 3rd and long situations. If A.J. Johnson can play sideline to sideline like he has all season, the Vols defense will be able to make Kentucky’s offense one-dimensional and heap much more pressure onto their quarterback.
Edited by Will Lomas