Maintaining control of the clock and using weapons to find big plays are going to be key for Tennessee football on offense and special teams in this game. That’s why we named Marquez Callaway, Brandon Kennedy and Ty Chandler as crucial players.
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But as you noticed with what we said about Nigel Warrior, big plays on defense are going to be huge as well. This will just be a game of big plays all around, and players in position to do such a thing are going to be more crucial.
Jonathan Kongbo is one of those players. To beat West Virginia, the Vols need to force turnovers. Last year, WVU was outside of the Top 100 in limiting turnovers. They had 26 on the season, averaging two a game. Kongbo is a guy who could play a huge role in forcing them.
For starters, let’s talk about the 12 interceptions Will Grier threw last year and the 14 interceptions overall. Grier was at his worst under pressure. Mike Casazza of 247Sports cited Pro Football Focus in an article back in April of this year to note that while Grier is flawless when kept clean, he is one of the worst quarterbacks under pressure.
That’s where Kongbo comes in. He has moved to edge rusher specifically to finally be able to reach his full potential as a five-star defensive end. The one strength the Vols have on defense is the potential to get a ton of pressure on the outside with their front seven. Kongbo has got to do that as much as possible. If he can, he totally changes the game.
Nobody will have a bigger role to help the Vols meet Jeremy Pruitt’s defensive identity this year than Kongbo. And this is his first chance to do that. It’s also the opposite approach to what John Jancek and Tennessee did to Grier three years ago, and he torched them in the process. They can’t let that happen again. This team needs to get in his face. Kongbo is the guy who can do it.