Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Tennessee vs. Southern Miss Preview

After last week's hard fought West Coast loss to the Cal Bears, the Vols head home to face 1-0 Southern Miss out of Conference USA. The Vols are favored in this game by eleven points, and should be looking to revenge last week's tough loss. To do so, the Vols will need better play-calling, and much better tackling.

Stopping the run game shouldn't come much easier than last week, as the Vols face another talented back. Damion Fletcher, a Pre-season All-CUSA team selection, brings a different style running game than Cal's Justin Forsett. Fletcher makes defenses miss by using his power and quicksteps, while lacking the break away speed of Forsett. Tennessee's defense should focus on containing him and bringing him down. Missed tackles such as last week will cost the defense many more yards, and a potential upset.

With the poor defensive execution against Cal last week, Fulmer has replaced two seniors in the starting lineup. Sophomore Dan Williams will take the place of J. T. Mapu on the defensive line, and true freshmen sensation Eric Berry will make his first start at strong safety in replace of Jarrod Parrish.

“I want everybody to understand that the guys that played the best are the ones that are going to play,” Fulmer said.

Eric Berry opened the game as the Vols fifth defensive back, and with his great performance, finished at the strong safety.

“He brings an energy and he tries to crush people,” defensive backs coach Larry Slade said. “He gets around the football, whether it’s at corner or safety. He’s an outstanding football player.”

The key for the Vols will be offense in this game, as they go up against a very strong defensive team. Erik Ainge is looking to have another strong performance as he did in California. His pinky is not a problem, but the play-calling could be. Cutcliffe needs to open up his play-calling and try some deep passes to try to catch the defense napping if the Vols want to turn into a dangerous offense. The addition of LaMarcus Coker could help that. But, Cutcliffe is unsure of Coker's shape for Saturday's game against Southern Miss.

"He didn't practice with us at all prior to the California game - he just went with the scout team - so I don't know what kind of shape he's in," Cutcliffe said. "We'll just see day to day. (Monday) he was pretty rusty from knowing what to do and learning. He hadn't been in a meeting really."

If Coker can bring that big play spark he demonstrated for the Vols last season, he could really be a huge asset to the team. The Vols would then have two experienced running backs in Foster and Coker capable of breaking out for big plays, along with Hardesty who has shown a few sparks himself. A strong running game, along with some solid short passing plays could really open up the offense for some deep passes, which would be ideal for the Vols.

Another question mark heading into the game has been the situation of Xavier Mitchell. Mitchell sustained an injury in the opening game last Saturday and remained motionless for several minutes. As he was carted off the field, he waived his hands to the crowd. He returned home with the team, and reports say he just received a concussion. He spend the majority of his week answering phone calls and text messages from worried family and friends. Latest news says Mitchell has been cleared for practice contact, and he says he is feeling OK.

“We'll see how that goes,” Mitchell said. “It’s kind of a progression thing. If I don't have any problems, I feel real good that I'm going to play.”

One thing is for certain though, and that is the crazy VolNation will have Neyland Stadium packed with orange and white as the Vols play their home owner this weekend.

Go Vols

1 comment:

Sabanocchio said...

Helluva job, bro! You did your homework on that one.