Even in an ugly win last week over the Bowling Green Falcons, Tennessee football had lots of players step up in a big way. It’s absolutely necessary for those players to step up again this week as the Vols have a much tougher opponent coming to town.
The Pittsburgh Panthers travel to Neyland Stadium for a game being played in honor of the late Johnny Majors. This is a huge game for UT, one that could very likely determine if they reach bowl eligibility on the field in Josh Heupel’s inaugural season. Under Pat Narduzzi, Pitt isn’t any powerhouse, but they are a level above the Vols right now.
Narduzzi’s program also relies on specific strengths, so as we get set to break down the key players in this game, those strengths will be the main story. Rocky Top has to neutralize those and then exploit where they are notoriously weak. Let’s break down who will be able to do that. These are the five Vols to watch for when Tennessee football hosts Pitt.
6’6″ 325 pounds; Hometown: Knoxville, Tenn.
If there’s one thing Narduzzi’s program has always been strong at, it’s getting into the backfield. That hasn’t changed for Pitt this year, as they had five sacks and six tackles for a loss in their season-opening 51-7 against the UMASS Minutemen. As a result, the Vols’ offensive line will dictate whether or not they can win this game.
One of the most important people on that line is Cade Mays. Although he is the starting right tackle, Mays is really just responsible for being the star on the right side in general. He could play right guard if needed, and he’ll need to anchor that side as much as possible.
Last week, Mays’ brother, Cooper Mays, got hurt at center, and the offense had a notable drop-off after that. He almost made this list. However, Tennessee football needs Cade Mays’ proven talents to win this game. This is one of those games meant for elite offensive linemen like him to shine, and that’s exactly what he needs to do.