Yes, every game is important, but let’s keep it realistic. Tennessee football wants to get an early lead on the UT-Martin Skyhawks so they can pull their starters early given the fact that they have two ranked foes up next, the Kentucky Wildcats and Georgia Bulldogs. Coming off a huge win over the Alabama Crimson Tide, it’s even more crucial.
There are no more regular season byes on the Vols’ schedule, so Josh Heupel needs to use this game as an effective bye, which means building that early lead. However, if the Vols are going to pull that off, they’ll need some of their starters to step up early.
UT-Martin is a dangerous FCS program at 4-2. They are top 20 in both FCS polls. As an offensive-based team, it would seem the most obvious way to get that lead is for the Vols to score on them at will, but they need help on both sides of the ball. Here are the five key Vols in Tennessee football’s machup with the Skyhawks.
These Tennessee football players can have the biggest impact for the Volunteers against the Skyhawks.
6’3″ 296 pounds
A huge reason for the Vols’ success last week was how they contained Will Anderson Jr. and Alabama’s pass rush overall. Darnell Wright was the star, and UT could use him again this week. UT-Martin has an elite pass rush for its level too, as they have 17 sacks on the year. They also come from all angles.
As a result, the offensive line in general will be crucial, and the blocking schemes will be most important. After all, Rocky Top is good enough to win all of its matchups one-on-one. That means Cooper Mays has to check off to the right plays consistently, making him the most important blocker up front in this game.
Mays has been crucial to Tennessee football all year, and he’ll have to block players himself, but the most important thing for him is keeping everybody in line. The Vols can the ball at will on UT-Martin, but they can’t let that pass rush get anything going early on.