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TaxSlayer Gator Bowl X-Factor: Nigel Warrior

Tennessee’s senior safety will go a long way in determining Indiana’s success through the air.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Tennessee
Nigel Warrior has shown tremendous growth in 2019.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

By now you should know that the Indiana Hoosiers like to throw the ball.

They are one of the top aerial attacks in the country and they have a plethora of playmakers that can move the ball through the air. Their top playmaker, Whop Philyor, is one of the most exciting receivers in the Big Ten and in the entire country.

The Hoosiers also have an effective quarterback in Peyton Ramsey, who has played well since taking over the starting gig with just a few weeks remaining in the regular season.

So, as you can see, it will be paramount for Tennessee top stop Indiana’s passing attack.

There are multiple ways to clamp down on a team that likes to throw the ball. Some will say an effective pass rush is the biggest key, but sometimes the scheme/disguise of a defense - especially in the back end - means more.

We all know that Jeremy Pruitt loves to disguise and hide what his defense is doing. Whether it’s pre-snap or post-snap, he’s always looking to get a leg up on the opposing offense.

Bryce Thompson is an integral part of the secondary and will be a major factor in determining the overall success of a defense, but Nigel Warrior is my bet as your more under-the-radar guy (for those that don’t pay much attention to Tennessee) who is likely to have a big game.

Warrior’s improvement in 2019 has been tremendous. In fact our own Austin Burlage and myself wrote two separate posts covering Warrior’s improvement from a numbers standpoint and a tape evaluation standpoint earlier in the year. Click here for the tape evaluation and click here for the numbers evaluation in case you missed out - and for better context.

Austin also discussed in length how the Vols like to use ‘7-Bracket’ coverage and how Warrior is a crucial piece in that coverage. Be sure to check those two pieces - the overall defensive breakdown for the bowl game and the ‘7-Bracket’ coverage breakdown - by clicking on the included links.

Now that you’re all caught up, it’s easy to see why Warrior can be the X-factor in this game, isn’t it?

Warrior’s ability in the overall defensive scheme will likely force Indiana outside of its comfort zone, which is throwing to the sidelines, like Austin mentions in his piece. He may also see a couple of matchups on Peyton Hendershot, Indiana’s tight end who is also a major component of the passing attack.

His improved tackling ability will help on the shorter routes that Indiana tends to run, as well. The Hoosiers tend to dink-and-dunk when they lose their big play ability, and that should fit right in Warrior’s wheelhouse as an improved tackler.

At the end of the day, Warrior may not light up the stat sheet, but I can promise you he is going to have a big impact on how this game shakes out.