5’11” 213 pounds
Lost in Vanderbilt’s horrendous pass defense is the fact that their rush defense isn’t that good either. They give up over four and a half yards a carry on the ground. Last week, at South Carolina, one issue for Tennessee football was the fact that Josh Heupel may have been pushing too much for the big play when the run game was the advantage.
Jabari Small was the star in that game. He carried the ball 11 times for 80 yards. On the Vols’ first possession, trailing 7-0, Small ran 31 yards for a score. That was his first carry of the game. Although Dylan Sampson and Jaylen Wright have been emerging in recent weeks, Small proved he’s still the best running back of the group.
In this game, Heupel will need him again, and it would probably be a good idea to stick with him a bit longer. Clark Lea is a defensive guy, so he now knows the formula for slowing down UT’s elite passing attack. South Carolina and the Georgia Bulldogs both played insanely soft coverage.
As a result, Lea will probably do the same thing. The Vols will have to work the intermediate passing game as a result with Cedric Tillman, and they need to stick to the run this time. It will also help their defense get a rest, and that’s something that clearly matters now.