On paper, Tennessee football should be able to cruise to seven wins. However, they can’t overlook a South Alabama Jaguars team visiting town this weekend. Like the Vols, USA is 5-5 with a first-year head coach who has them playing much better than they have played in recent years. Kane Wommack has turned them into an elite defensive program, and UT needs to watch out.
Sure, the Jaguars are still a Group of Five team, and quarterback Jake Bentley has a knee injury and may not be able to go. On the other hand, Bentley is 3-0 against Rocky Top dating back to his time with the South Carolina Gamecocks, so if he can go, watch out.
With or without Bentley, Tennessee football will need key defensive players to step up to make sure this team isn’t any threat at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday. However, Josh Heupel will need his offense to still hit a couple of big plays. Let’s analyze who can make those things happen in our list of key Vols to watch against South Alabama.
6’3″ 215 pounds
Honestly, despite his play last week, Cedric Tillman was not about to make this list. JaVonta Payton would have made it because South Alabama, despite being pretty good all around defensively, is prone to giving up the big play through the air. They gave up an 81-yard touchdown pass to the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks.
Well, Payton is the king of big-play touchdowns. That’s his whole game, as six of his 15 catches have gone for scores. However, he got banged up against he Georgia Bulldogs, and while it seems like he should be able to go, he likely won’t be 100 percent.
That means Heupel will have to turn to Tillman. Last week, Tillman had 10 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown. He is a true wideout who can make the big play, and he can also methodically move the ball down field with lots of one-on-one catches. As a result, with Payton gone, he’ll be key for Tennessee football once again, this time to be able to score and put this game out of reach.