The Sycamores from Indiana State are coming to Knoxville on Saturday as Tennessee open the gates to Neyland Stadium for the first time of the 2017 season.
Coming off a short week after playing Georgia Tech, Tennessee had little time to get ready for their FCS. Let’s take a look at who has the edge in each position group going into the game.
There is a possibility that four different quarterbacks could play on Saturday based on comments from Tennessee head coach Butch Jones and an in-game decision last week by Sycamores head coach Curt Mallory.
Quinten Dormady won the Vols’ starting job going into this season, with Jarrett Guarantano watching, somewhat grumpily, from the sideline. Jones as stated that Guarantano will play on Saturday, but the unknown is when he will come into the game.
Isaac Harker is a redshirt junior for Indiana State. He started last week against Eastern Illinois, but was pulled towards the end of the first half in favor of redshirt freshman Cade Sparks. Regardless of who is in at quarterback for Tennessee, they will be in good hands. Dormady and Guarantano were highly ranked coming out of high school.
Both the Vols and Sycamores had running backs explode onto the scene in the first week of the season. Tennessee’s John Kelly carried the ball 19 times for 128 yards and four touchdowns. Indiana State’s LeMonte Booker rushed for 154 yards, a career high, in his first game back since missing the 2016 season due to injury.
Look for these two backs to be running hard. Also keep your eyes open for Tennessee’s true freshman Ty Chandler, who should have an opportunity to gain some experience this weekend.
Wide Receivers vs Defensive Backs
Tennessee lost a fan favorite and their top wide out when Jauan Jennings left the game Monday night. However, Marquez Callaway pulled a Greg Jennings and put the team on his back with two big time touchdowns against Georgia Tech. Vol fans will see some new faces split out wide, guys that are hungry for a chance to prove themselves. Indiana State is fairly young at the corner position, so look for Vols offensive coordinator Larry Scott to try to identify someone to pick on early and often.
Depending on the game plan for Indiana State, Tennessee’s defensive backs may have an easy day. If they go run heavy like they did against Eastern Illinois, they will be there for run support instead of trying to cover the tall Sycamore wide receivers. Indiana State lists 5 receivers at 6’2” or taller.
Offensive Line vs Defensive Line
Trey Smith everybody.
….and this is why Trey Smith was the top-ranked player in the country. pic.twitter.com/b1qKZIiwXB
— Derek Tyson (@DerekJTyson) September 5, 2017
Although the opponent is from a Power 5 conference, Tennessee has to take advantage of the “cupcake” on their schedule by making adjustments to get ready for their SEC opener against Florida in a week. Bob Shoop’s defense has some growing to do and fans are getting frustrated about the amount of yards they have been allowing, going back to last season. Larry Scott has an opportunity to open the playbook up and try new plays with different personnel groups. Having worked together at Central Michigan in 2001, don’t be surprised if Butch Jones takes it a little easy on Curt Mallory and doesn’t run the score up too much.
OVERALL EDGE: Tennessee