I wanted to delve a little deeper into the matchup between our defensive front-7 and the Tennessee OL. I think this will be the biggest challenge for our Bruins on Saturday. If our Price, Jerzy, Carter and co. are not able to hold their own against the behemoth Volunteers frontline, I think it will be a long day of watching prime time football on ESPN.
First, let's put the numbers of Tennessee front line in perspective. Here is a look at the Volunteers OL depth chart:
|Chris Scott, Sr (6-5, 330)
Vladimir Richard, Sr (6-4,300)
Cody Sullins, Sr (6-1, 260)
Jacques McClendon, Sr (6-3, 324)
||Jarrod Shaw, Jr (6-4, 332)+|
Dallas Thomas, Fr.* (6-5, 268)
Cody Pope, So (6-6, 288)
||Cory Sullins, Sr (6-1, 270)||William Brimfield, So (6-5, 346)
||Aaron Douglas, Fr* (6-6, 282)+|
*Indicates red shirt
+ Listed as "Co-No. 1"
And now here is a look at the depth chart of the San Diego State's OL heading into last weekend:
Tommie Draheim, So (6-4, 290)
Mike Matamua, So (6-4, 290)
||Trask Losefa, Jr (6-0, 290)
||Ikaika Aken-Moleta, Sr (6-2, 295)
Peter Nelson, Sr (6-5, 295)
Tom Rische, Jr, (6-4, 290)
Alec Johnson, Fr* (6-3, 300)
Damian Shankle, Sr (6-2, 295)
Emilio Rivera, So (6-4, 295)
Kurtis Gunther, So (6-8, 285)
*Indicates red shirt
You guys see the difference? It took couple of series for Brian Price and rest of the Bruin defensive frontline to generate pressure on the Aztecs. I don't think we can afford to have that luxury on Saturday evening. The Tennessee guys will come out right away and look to establish their own tempo and rhythm, by power running all over the Bruin defense.
If you recall they had decent amount of success against the Bruin defense rushing the ball last year as they ran for 177 yards in 34 attempts. They lost control of the game when for some inexplicable reasons they decided to go chuck and duck with Jonathan Crompton with astonishing 41 pass attempts. I don't see the Vols making the same mistake this time around.
You can bet they will come out at Neyland and serve up heavy doses of Hardesty and Brown. Don't forget though. Tennessee also has other talent at the tailback position. From Athlon.com's season preview:
Senior Montario Hardesty hits holes hard and possesses breakaway speed, and with a healthy spring behind him is on pace to enjoy his finest season. But before Hardesty can lead the Vols to victories he must first win his position. That figures to be a challenge with highly regarded prospects Bryce Brown and David Oku coming to fall camp. Brown, a 6'0", 215-pound super talent from Wichita, Kan., was ranked the No. 1 overall prospect in the nation by Rivals.com, and a visit to various YouTube highlight reels shows why. Oku, a 5'10", 185-pounder, was Rivals’ No. 1-rated all-purpose back and offers quickness and receiving ability. Freshman Toney Williams enrolled early and was expected to challenge for immediate playing time, but suffered a season-ending knee injury in summer workouts. Tauren Poole is another shifty option who should get into the mix this year. Fullbacks Kevin Cooper and Austin Johnson could get competition in the event the coaches move a tailback to the position.
Looking the boxscore from last Saturday, it looks like Oku got a decent chunk of action. He carried the ball 8 times for 42 yards, scoring 2 TDs, while Poole also carried the ball 5 times for 62 yards. So no doubt Hardesty and Brown are going to get the spotlight. However, I am sure our coaches will also be aware of Oku and Poole.
It will be interesting to see how Bullough scheme up his defense for Saturday. I thought our defensive effort in the early going was fairly vanilla. It seemed like the San Diego State OL (who clearly are not in the same league as the Tennessee OL in terms of size and athleticism) handled our stunts pretty well. It took us a while to get serious pressure going on the Aztecs passing game.
So what do we do? For starters, I think we are going to need more intense effort from our LBers. For whatever reason, I though Reggie Carter and Akeem Ayers came out a little slow last weekend. I didn't think their concentration level pick up till the second half (perhaps I am being bit harsh here but calling it as I saw the action). I think those guys will need to focused and locked in so that they can help our defensive frontline in containing the Tennesee ground attack.
I think the key for us will be to disrupt Crompton's comfort level. If we can contain their running game early on and get some heavy pressure on the Tennessee QB by blitzing him through different looks, I think we might be able to get him rattled a bit and throw him off rhythm. It is going to be a huge challenge.
That is why it will be imperative for a total team effort. The defense will need all the help it can get from an offense that will need to play effective ball control and the special teams doing whatever it can to give us good field position on both sides of the ball. Otherwise with that kind of imposing size and experience, I can see their OL eventually wearing down our front-7 in front of a rocking Tennessee home crowd.