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Tennessee vs. West Virginia — Behind Enemy Lines: Five questions with Smoking Musket

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Final preparations.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve done our fair share of breaking down West Virginia. Why not get a perspective from the people that know the Mountaineers the best? Let’s go behind enemy lines.

Thanks to Matt Kirchner of SmokingMusket.com for helping us out here.


1) We’ve heard all about Will Grier and the West Virginia passing game, what will the running game look like?

Dana Holgorsen is from the Hal Mumme/Mike Leach tree, but Leach kind of informally kicked him out of the Air Raid club for running too much. You’ll see a lot more running than you’d think, including some power concepts you wouldn’t be expecting from an air raid guy.

Kennedy McKoy is the the number one back but you’ll also see a healthy dose of Martell Petteway, a more powerful runner.

Redshirt freshman Alec Sinkfield and true freshman Leddie Brown have had great camps, and I wouldn’t be suprised if they get some run as well.

2) If Tennessee has any shot, it will probably be because of their ability to run the ball. How is the defensive front shaping up?

I would call my thoughts on the defensive front “catiously optimistic-ish.” Holgorsen bolstered the line in the spring with impact grad transfers in Kenny Bigelow from USC and Jabril Robinson from Clemson, who will start from day one. Ezekiel Rose is going to try to build off from a strong end to 2017 and be the number one EDGE rusher.

Depth is going to come in the form of Dante and Darius Stills, two brothers from Fairmont, WV who have lit up camp, and Reese Donahue, another WV native.

It will definitely be tested by a power rushing attack by the Vols, and I’m looking forward to see how they perform and it definitely has a chance to decide the game either way.

3) West Virginia has seen a few injuries in the secondary already. Any concern there?

A little, as depth is again an issue and we’ve bolstered the lineup using grad transfers and will be playing some youth-though not to the extent of the Vols.

There’s good leadership with Dravon Askew-Henry and Kenny Robinson, but bad injury luck could really put a damper on the defensive backfield.

4) Give us two off-the-radar players that we should know and why.

On offense, it’s Marcus Simms. The spotlight has been on David Sills and Gary Jennings, but neither has the break away speed of Simms. He’s an electric return guy and Jake Spavital will call a couple of deep routes to him early to open up the middle of the field for Sills and Jennings to go to work.

On defense, it’s Zeke Rose. His emergence as a pass rusher will be key to this season for West Virginia and getting to Guarantano early to get Tennessee into second or third in long situations where it’s forced to pass is ideal for West Virginia.

5) Give us your final prediction.

A good game that should be being played in Morgantown or Knoxville. These neutral openers tend to start weird as both teams have a feeling out process. I think it’s close at halftime with Tennessee succeeding early with a ball control strategy.

I think West Virginia has too many playmakers late, though, and pulls away in the third and fourth to come away with a solid 35-20ish win.