8 game winning streak, a dominant offensive line, a now healthy secondary, and one of the best hype videos you’ll see All this combined, equals a whole lot of optimism.
For all this optimism, there has to be some results so you can wake up on Sunday knowing there were no humans barking in celebration.Mike & I give our three Johnny’s Major Keys of the week for Tennessee to pull off the upset down in Athens. We broke these down on The Podcast Thursday.
- (Chase) Get a little creative, but keep the backbone of basic ground and pound.
Use the new speed and playmaking ability of these running backs and wide receivers. A lot of this creativity has to be based on timing. Pruitt and Chaney aren’t scheming up a game plan acting as super underdog, but enough to combat a talented defense.
Getting Jalin Hyatt and Velus Jones in space and going down hill. Whether that is as simple as an end around or as complex as one of those Andy Reed fake hand off to the running back – fake to the wide receiver end around – back to the one of these wide outs on a screen.
The creativity has to also be there, but don’t escape this team’s bread and butter. Gray and Chandler, & now Small, running behind this stud O-Line. You can be creative even in the simple plays. Use Georgia’s speed against them, with well timed counters and draws.
Georgia is talented, but Chaney and Pruitt have been pretty vanilla on offense so far. I don’t think they will going for home run plays ever series, but they will bring out some excitement today.
- (Mike) Pressure the Passer
The Volunteers have seen notable performances from their edge rushers. Both Kurott Garland and Deandre Johnson have performed well through the first two weeks of the season. Garland garnered some notoriety by racking up Pro Football Focus Team of the Week honors. Johnson leads the SEC in sacks through two weeks. Despite the strong starts from these two, the Vols will likely need to disguise their blitzes and bring pressure from the secondary and linebacking corps in order to affect the performance of Stetson Bennett this Saturday.
I would look for both Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson to blitz from the weak side of the field on Saturday. It is also likely we will see Henry To’oto’o bringing pressure from the middle of the field as Pruitt will look to use the quarterback of the defense to hurry the Bulldog’s offense. If the Vols can get at least three sacks against Georgia, then that would bode well for the outcome on Saturday. Despite Georgia looking strong up front against Auburn this past week, Georgia lacks experience along the offensive line. This unit may be susceptible to being caught off guard by the different blitz packages Pruitt will dial up inevitably.
On the other hand, fans should look for Tennessee to give up at least one big play against the Dawgs. That is the risk that is run by being the aggressor. It is, however, a necessary risk. Tennessee does not have the talent in their front four alone to generate pressure consistently against a team of Georgia’s caliber. Without pressure, Stetson Bennett figures to be an effective game manager and the chances of creating a turnover diminish.
2. (Chase) JG has to capitalize on open receivers off play action.
With all the attention going to be focused on Chandler and Gray, play action will be there. And with that play action comes receivers one on one down the field. JG has to make those throws today. Last week against Missouri, JG made some beautiful throws down field. That has to continue and probably be a little better against Georgia. If these throws can be made Tennessee will win this football game.
2. (Mike) Run the Ball Between the Hedges
Let’s also pretend the offensive tackles are also called the hedges of the offensive line, creating a double entendres of sorts. Not only does Tennessee need to establish their ground game in Athens, but they need to do so behind the interior offensive line, which most would consider the strength of the unit.
That’s the second key. While it’s necessary for Tennessee to utilize their ground game early and often, it’s imperative for the Vols run between the tackles. With reports out of practice being that Cade has slid inside to Right Guard primarily, it makes the most sense for Tennessee to run vertically. Georgia has an incredible amount of speed on the defensive side of the ball. Horizontal running schemes with zone blocking are a thing of the past. Trey Smith is ready to run it down the Dawgs’ throats. He didn’t come back to Knoxville to play Butch Ball. It’s time for Tennessee to give Trey and their offensive line the chance to dominate on the inside and rack up some highlights against the best the SEC has to offer.
This unit is not scared of anyone in the country and is back to playing Tennessee football. Dominate the line of scrimmage. Let’s make Philip Fulmer proud on Saturday. Offensive Line U here we come. Talking to you, Amarius Mims.
3. (Chase) Set the edge and control the line of scrimmage one defense.
It’s Georgia, this rushing attack will be strong and they had five players with over 6 rushes last week. So, there is a vicious rotation of talent coming in at all times in their backfield.
The Tennessee front 7 has to play intelligent today. No overshooting gaps and getting out of position. They have a very healthy secondary for the first time this year. The front seven will have to trust the boys behind them to cover anything in the air.
Setting the edge and not let these Georgia running backs get outside will be another aspect to control the line of scrimmage. Tennessee wants to make this a game where Stetson Bennett has to beat them. Containing the rushing attack is going to be the key to doing that.
3. (Mike) Two Interceptions
If the Vols can intercept the bulldogs twice, they will win the game. Pruitt’s bread and butter throughout his time as a coach has always notoriously been coaching defensive backs. Tennessee has one of the best pair of corners in the SEC in Thompson and Taylor. Shamburger will be available this Saturday as well. Jaylen “Tank” McCollough will be paroling the defensive backfield. The Vols also have linebackers who are ballhawks with both To’oto’o and Banks known to snag a ball or two out of the air. Tennessee’s Defense will come up big on Saturday.
This key really works on two levels. If Stetson Bennett is throwing interceptions, it’s likely because Tennessee’s front seven are getting pressure on him, so key 1 and key 3 play off of each other to some degree. I think Tennessee may give up a big play or two but look for them to pressure Georgia into a couple big mistakes on Saturday.
To drop a terrible pun, this game is going to be a dog fight. Tennessee is going to have to play their best football to win, but none the less, it can definitely happen. These are you Johnny’s Major Keys to the game. Thanks for reading! And as always like, subscribe, and listen to the podcast where ever you can find them. Or just click the fancy Spotify link below.