Tennessee football has what should be another sleeper against the University of Texas at El Paso Saturday. Here are five Volunteers to watch for.
After facing an FCS school, Tennessee football may actually have an easier opponent this week. Jeremy Pruitt’s Vols face the worst FBS team of the last year, and despite changing coaches and completely going in a different direction, the UTEP Miners don’t look any better this year.
Led by first-year head coach Dana Dimel, who spend the last nine seasons as offensive coordinator for the Kansas State Wildcats, this team will look to end its 14-game losing streak. Part of that streak includes a blowout loss to the FCS Northern Arizona Lumberjacks to open this season.
So yes, this team is bad. But Dimel himself is not unfamiliar with Rocky Top. He took the Wyoming Cowboys to Neyland Stadium as head coach in 1999 to face the Vols in their first game after winning the national championship. Tennessee football won that game 42-17, but don’t forget that Wyoming was actually up 10-7 before Jay Stoner, their quarterback, got hurt.
That’s just an interesting tidbit. Dimel leads a completely different team to Knoxville Saturday, and although the Vols are significantly worse as a program themselves, there’s probably greater distance between them and UTEP than their was between them and Wyoming to start 1999. And that’s saying something.
However, amidst all of that, this Vols team has a lot of issues. So if it’s going to beat the Miners to get to 2-1 ahead of the Florida Gators coming to town, a few players still need to step up. As we get set to look at the key Vols for this game, our basis is a combination of the best players the last two weeks and the key weaknesses on the Miners. And yes, those weaknesses are glaring.
But we also have a decent bit of evidence to determine which players on Rocky Top will be valuable consistently this year. So using those two bits of information, here are the top five Tennessee football players to watch for against the UTEP Miners.