Heading into the 2018 season with a new head coach, Tennessee football had two major stars that everybody paid attention to: Trey Smith and Nigel Warrior. Like the safeties in general, Warrior was awful in the Vols’ opener against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
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Against the ETSU Bucs, he did help the secondary shut down Logan Marchi. But we have to be fair. You can’t count what happened against an FCS school. Although UTEP is not much better, the Vols need Warrior to show up in this game.
In fact, similar to everybody else on this list, the match-up begs for a big day from Warrior. UTEP has thrown an interception to a safety each of the past two games, and they also have given up a sack to a safety.
Similar to a linebacker, safeties are all over the field against the Miners. And with Dana Dimel as head coach, the misdirection plays and emphasis on the quarterback calls for the safeties to make big plays.
We know Warrior is capable of that. He’s a hard-hitter, he can play in coverage, and he’s just an overall complete player. The Vols don’t have anybody else like that at safety right now, and despite the great play last week, cornerback is still a work in progress. As a result, don’t count out the idea that UT could struggle to defend the pass this week, even against UTEP.
Because of the inconsistencies there that come with the transition to the 3-4 defense, Tennessee football needs everything it can get from Warrior. They want to put this game away early, and the play of the secondary will go a long way towards doing that. As a result, Warrior is the most crucial player in this game. He can put things out of reach early so the Vols can get ready for the Florida Gators.