One of the best things going for Tennessee football its first year under new head coach Josh Heupel is the easy non-conference schedule. The Vols play all four games at home, and not one of their foes is projected to be in the top 25. In fact, their two Group of Five foes and their FCS foe all had losing seasons last year.
Given all the issues facing the program, UT could not have caught a better break with this slate. However, that doesn’t mean the Vols can just coast through these games. There are too many issues with the team this year, so they have to take every game, even the easy ones, seriously.
In order to run the table in non-conference play, Rocky Top will have to focus on some very key players that will face them. One of the non-conference games could make or break the season, but the other ones could just break it. As a result, the stars on these teams need to be accounted for. Who are they? These are the top five non-conference players Tennessee football will face.
Senior; 6’6″ 310 pounds; Dublin, Ohio
Yes, offensive linemen can be critical to deal with when you’re facing another team. The Bowling Green Falcons, despite their issues the past two years, are an offensive-oriented program under head coach Scot Loeffler. Meanwhile, the Vols have tons of issues on defense. To not have issues against BGSU, they need to bring pressure, and to do that, they have to beat Sam Neverov.
The graduate of Jerome High School in Union County, Ohio is a second-team interior lineman on the Pro Football Focus All-MAC team. That’s the highest ranking any BGSU player earned, and despite all the issues last year, Neverov is an elite guard.
Defensive back Keith Gallmon of the South Alabama Jaguars, Neverov’s teammate, linebacker Darren Anders, and two Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles defenders, defensive end Chris Tucker and defensive back Josh Reliford, all came close to making this spot. However, Tennessee football shouldn’t have to worry about FCS players. Neverov just got the nod over the others.