On Sunday evening, the Vols open up their season in Neyland Stadium against the Utah State Aggies. We have waited 9 months for the football season to begin. Everybody has analyzed the opponents, discussed the youth and inexperience Butch Jones will put on the field, and impatiently waited for tonight’s kickoff.
Utah State will walk into Neyland Stadium and face a sold out crowd of 102,455. Nearly half of Tennessee’s roster will make their debuts in front of those same 102,455. With so much unknown heading into the season, here is what we do know…
The keys to victory have and will always follow General Neyland’s 7 Game Maxims.
1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.
How will Utah State handle the crowd noise and the Neyland Stadium game atmosphere? While the Aggies have had some success over the last few years, can they drown out the raucous sea of orange? For them to find success, they will have to find a way to keep their poise and composure.
For the Vols, how fast can they grow up? Their youth and inexperience will have to mature quickly in front of the Tennessee passionate fan base. Butch Jones is expecting around 30 newcomers to play, so they will have to be ready.
2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way – SCORE.
In recent seasons, the Volunteers have had a serious lack of team speed. Coach Jones and his staff have recruited to rectify that problem. Can they create some more breaks with their newfound speed and quickness? If they can, they will have a big advantage.
3. If at first the game – or the breaks – go against you, don’t let up… put on more steam.
If the Vols suffer an early turnover or give up an early score, will their youth and inexperience give in? Or will they show the mental toughness that Butch Jones has tried to instill? With senior leadership at key positions, Tennessee should be able to weather the storm.
4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game.
If the Vols new offensive line can protect QB Justin Worley and keep him comfortable, UT will have a clear advantage with their skill positions. With that advantage, they should be able to build a lead. A big question is…can the defense protect the lead?
5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle… for this is the WINNING EDGE.
Tennessee’s defense has a lot of new faces and they will have to step up against Utah State’s offense that includes dual-threat QB Chuckie Keeton. They will need to contain him and get to the ball quickly. If they can get the Aggies into 3rd down situations, they will have the crowd advantage. Vols fans should be hoping to hear a lot of “Third Down for What?!?!” playing in the stadium.
6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.
There is no more Michael Palardy. Can Matt Darr be a consistent force at the Punter position? Which Kicker…if any…will emerge as “the guy”? This might be the biggest question mark on the team. UT has plenty to use in the return game. If they can bust a big return or two, then this game could turn in their favor quickly.
7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.
In season openers, players and fans don’t usually have a problem staying up. With the 7 p.m. start time, there should be plenty of excitement. The Vols have had plenty of time to get prepared and you can guarantee Butch Jones will make sure his team carries the fight for 60 minutes. Can Utah State handle the noise and pressure they will undoubtedly experience?
Tags: Tennessee Volunteers