Tennessee football: 5 Vols to watch for vs. UMass Minutemen

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images /

As we mentioned, the way to shutting down UMass’s offense is picking up sacks. Nobody on the line has been a better playmaker on the outside so far this year than Darrell Taylor, the breakout defensive star for Tennessee football.

Starting opposite Jonathan Kongbo, Taylor has racked up 16 tackles on the year and recovered a fumble. He had the game-saving tackle to beat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and then picked up his first sack last Saturday against the Florida Gators.

This Saturday, he needs to pick up a few more sacks and get a lot of hurries.

Daniel Bituli is likely to be the playmaking pass rusher on the other side who can do some work dropping back in coverage. When he drops back, Jonathan Kongbo and Kyle Phillips can alternate on that side at end focusing on rushing the passer. Otherwise, they should focus on helping to get a push on the interior.

Taylor, meanwhile, should just be able to pin his ears back and rush every time. The Vols need sacks and big plays early in this game if they want to take control.

If Taylor can rush the passer, it’ll set everything else up. He’ll generate a bunch of big plays and allow for the offense to score early to get in control.

All three defensive guys we named playing well together will shut down UMass. Taylor rushes the passer, Bituli adds pressure and takes away one of their top targets, and Emmanuel Moseley takes away their top receiver.

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Doing all of those things could force UMass’s offense to make some serious mistakes. And in addition to Quinten Dormady and John Kelly making plays, the Tennessee football defense could make plays. The combination of those things could put the Vols in complete control by the second quarter and allow Butch Jones to finally pull his starters.