After an encouraging win against the ETSU Buccaneers, the Vols get another breather on the schedule with the UTEP Miners coming to town on Saturday.
There is still plenty of work to be done before SEC play begins next week. The offensive line is still a mess and Jeremy Pruitt continues to look for a pass rush.
The Miners are pretty terrible, but they do boast a couple of players that can make life hell for the Vols.
It’s time for the 2018’s Week 3 edition of the five keys to victory.
1. Figure out the offensive line
It’s simple. The Vols looked dreadful up front for about a quarter and a half against the Bucs. They entered the second quarter with (-1) rushing yards as a team. This cannot happen against Florida or any other SEC team.
Not only would Tennessee have to dig themselves out of a hole, but there is also a great chance that Jarrett Guarantano could get his head taken off to due to poor protection up front.
Ryan Johnson, who took over for the injured Brandon Kennedy, looked OK at times. The feeling, however, is that the Vols still haven’t found their best group of five just yet.
They are hoping that question can be answered this weekend.
2. Lock down Locksley
Kai Locksley, the son of Alabama offensive coordinator looks to have finally found a home at UTEP after starting his career at Texas.
While he’s not very effective through the air, he makes up for that with his legs. He leads the team with 169 rushing yards on the season.
If the Vols can shut him down, then it should be an easy day for the defense. If Locksley is allowed to make plays, however, then UT could find themselves in a bigger fight than anticipated.
3. Continue to air it out
Jarrett Guarantano and the Vols’ offense showed some big-play capability on Saturday against ETSU. If Guarantano has time to throw then he and the receivers have shown that they are more than able to go up and get the ball.
It would be wise for Tennessee to also try and incorporate some quick pass plays in order to get the ball out quickly. This would help overcome some of the deficiencies on the offensive line and further increase the timing with Guarantano and his receivers.
4. Find a pass rush
The Vols have been absolutely dreadful when rushing the passer. Shy Tuttle and Emmitt Gooden are the two players that have recorded a sack and both are interior linemen.
It was a popular thought coming into the season that the older players like Jonathan Kongbo and Darrell Taylor would provide an outside presence, but neither player has done so thus far - leaving much to be desired when it comes to getting after the quarterback.
This is Tennessee’s final tune-up game before a brutal SEC stretch begins and it’s paramount that they get this figured out this weekend. It’s not just for the long-term, either. They will need to get after Locksley this weekend in order to force him into mistakes and to force him to remain one-dimensional as a runner.
5. Stay focused
It’s going to be easy for a young team to look ahead to a primetime matchup against their biggest rivals.
However, Pruitt has shown that he can have this team dialed in no matter who is on the schedule.
Keeping the kids focused for this weekend would go a long way toward the overall development of this team and it’s something that should be an easy accomplishment once kickoff rolls around.