Holy crap. I mean… good lord. I’ve watched Tennessee’s game-winning “hail Mary” touchdown completion dozens of times by now. It still looks miraculous. You know the play I’m talking about… most likely… but I’ll give some brief background.
Georgia had seemingly won last Saturday’s game “between the hedges” with a touchdown and point-after in the final minute. There just wasn’t enough time left on the clock for Tennessee to launch a comeback. Except… there was… just… enough… time. The Volunteers’ offensive line gave quarterback Josh Dobbs plenty of space and plenty of time. Dobbs took a couple of big steps into his throw and then launched it hopefully toward the end zone. Vols’ wideout Jajuan Jennings had superior body position and a huge leap. He grabbled the pigskin with both hands and fell to the Athens turf bathing in victory. UT coach Butch Jones fell on his knees as he ran down toward the end zone hysteria. He knelt and cried those crazy “happy tears” at his team’s effort and the resulting triumph.
For Tennessee, it all begins and ends with the head coach. From the moment he arrived from the University of Cincinnati, the pugnacious Jones has been building a monster up in Knoxville. His “brick by brick” philosophy of team building has yielded this year’s crop of top-tier players. Jones and the Vols head to College Station, Texas this Saturday and then host Alabama on October 15. Bama will still be Bama. Big. Mean. Fast. But I predict a big orange victory in that one. Tennessee is loaded… all over the field… in the same way that Alabama is always loaded. I just can’t wait for that showdown. But Jones has his guys focused on the Aggies. Count on it.
The Vols are loaded with weapons on both sides of the ball. Dobbs, an aeronautical engineering major, is peaking for his senion season. He’s always a threat to break containment and scramble for five or fifty yards. His passing has improved dramatically and his field leadership is excellent. Smart and fast. That’s Dobbs… and that’s the UT offense. In addition to Jennings, Tennessee’s receiving corps also includes wideouts Josh Smith and Josh Malone. Ethan Wolf is the starting tight end… and he looks like he’ll be playing on Sundays for a few years.
The running back tandem of Josh Hurd and Alvin Kamara can both turn a short gain into a long gain. Either can turn a seeming dead play into a bust-out TD. The Vols’ O-line is a reminder of the days when UT would routinely place four or five linemen into the NFL’s first two draft rounds. This year’s Big Orange offensive line for this year features Kendrick Brett and Lashon Robertson on the left side, with Jack Jones and Chance Hall on the right. Senior Dylan Wiesman starts at center.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Vols have Corey Vereen and Derek Barnett at the ends. Danny O’Brien and Kendall Vickers line up at the two tackles. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who missed the big win over Georgia because he was sidelined with a shoulder injury, should be in the lineup again soon. Colton Jumper is the other linebacker. Todd Kelly, Jr. and Micah Abernathy line up at free and strong fafety, respectively. Emmanuel Mosely is at corner and Rashaan Golden plays nickel back.
Place kicker Aaron Medley Jr. hasn’t been tested much yet, but Tennessee always has good kickers. Punter Daniel Trevor has a knack for burying his kicks in the shadow of opponents’ goalposts.
Fast, strong and resilient. That’s how I’d describe Tennessee’s football team this season. I see them winning against Texas A&M in College Station this Saturday. I see them beating Alabama by two touchdowns in two weeks. This could be a team of destiny. Or it could be false hopes, doomed to die a painful death when the “same ol’ Tennessee” shows up. I’m betting on the destiny thing… for right now.
– Mark Northern
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