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Week Four X-Factor: Josh Palmer

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Tennessee’s sophomore receiver can provide a major advantage for the offense

NCAA Football: Tennessee at West Virginia
Josh Palmer should have a good day against the Gators
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

I wrote back in May that Vols’ receiver Josh Palmer was a candidate for a breakout season.

So far, he hasn’t disappointed.

Palmer has just six catches on the year so far, but he’s tied for second on the team in catches and second in terms of receiving yards. He trails Marquez Callaway by 23 yards, but Callaway also leads the team with 13 catches.

The sophomore has become Tennessee’s deep threat in the early stages of the season. He has a 50+ yard catch in back-to-back games and caught a career-high three passes against the Mountaineers in the season opener.

Palmer’s speed and versatility has also netted him 27 rushing yards and a touchdown on two carries. His 175 yards from scrimmage are the second most on the team and his 21.9 yards per touch are good for tops.

He also is second in the SEC in terms of yards per catch at 24.67 yards per reception.

Simply put, Palmer is a matchup problem for any team the Vols face.

Tennessee will open the playbook up this week for their first SEC game. The popular thought over the summer was that the Vols’ offensive strength would feature a gap-scheme run game, but that has since been dismissed in favor of a zone scheme, and one (me) could argue the strength of the offense lies in the passing game.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at West Virginia
Guarantano has been efficient as well as effective so far this season
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Florida was destroyed on the ground by Kentucky, but the Vols have looked below average when it comes to run blocking. Tennessee did run for 345 yards against the UTEP Miners, but they also struggled quite a bit when they played the ETSU Buccaneers.

Slow starts have been an issue with this team as well. If they can’t provide a push up front early and the Gators get out to a quick lead, then Palmer and the passing game will become even more important.

Therefore, it may be in their best interest to let Jarrett Guarantano sling the ball all over the place on Saturday.

It also helps to consider the current state of the Gators’ secondary. What was thought to be one of the strongest defensive backfields in the country has been derailed by injuries. Out are starters Marco Wilson - the best corner on the team - and Shawn Davis. Both injuries forced Dan Mullen to move slot receiver Dre Massey to the secondary, which is a matchup the Vols should be able to exploit.

Palmer and Guarantano’s chemistry was on full display during the Orange and White Spring Game back in April and it has carried over into the regular season.

Expect it to come to full fruition against Florida.

Week four expectation: 6 touches, 160 total yards, 2 TDs