Tennessee Prepares For Utah State Sunday Night Showdown
by Dan Harralson
Aug 25, 2014 7:42 PM EDT
Welcome to game week. Fall camp is officially in the books and Butch Jones had his Volunteers in full preparation for Utah State Thursday.
"It was a very productive camp," Jones said. "It was a learning experience for a young team. I am anxious to see their mental approach – It is game plan week. We have had our game plan in place all summer. Its all about preparation for Utah State.
The Aggies of Utah State are coming off of a Mountain West conference championship game appearance and a win over Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl – not bad for first year head coach and former Utah State quarterback Matt Wells.
So, just who are the Aggies of Utah State that will be making the trek into Neyland Stadium? The Aggies have talent within the skill position players – and can easily be a tough game for Tennessee if the Vols are not prepared. The youthful Tennessee talent will need to be ready from the get go (both offensively and defensively), and this is why Butch Jones is preaching full preparation for a team that does not shy away from playing on big stages.
The defending Mountain Division champs averaged 31.8 ppg last year and did so by having starting QB Chuckie Keeton out for half of the season with a torn ACL and MCL. Darrell Garetson, now a sophomore, filled in for Keeton and guided the Aggies to a 6-1 finish on the year. But Keeton is back and will be ready to go for the showdown in Knoxville.
The Aggies return talent on the outside with receivers Bruce Natson, Brandon Swindall and Ronald Butler in the receiver department. The running game is solid with Joe Hill taking over the reign in the backfield. Hill has had two good performances in the Aggies' fall camp scrimmages and the recent running success should be telling that he has a chance to duplicate last year's running success. Hill replaces Joey DeMartino, who ran for 1,221 yards last year. Hill will have to showcase his running abilities behind an offensive line with just one starter returning on it – the right side of the line should be a more effective side to run the ball and will be key against Tennessee.
The Aggies Defense
BJ Larsen anchors the defensive line, who recorded four sacks and four TFL last year. Zack Vigil and Kyler Fackrell are the names to remember within the Aggies' linebacker core – both combined for seven sacks and 18 TFL a season ago. The secondary is highlighted by free safety Brian Suite, who led the team with five INTs in 2013. Suite is the lone starter back in the secondary, and this is where the game can be won for the Volunteers. Look for the strong receiving corps of Tennessee to exploit the inexperience Utah State will field in the secondary.
Inside Tennessee Practice
Here are practice highlights from Tennessee's preparation for Utah State, as well as Tennessee wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni talking about the receivers and running backs coach Robert Gillespie on the running backs.
Butch Jones Talks Bowl Game
There's no doubt that the Utah State game is crucial to win, not only to set the tone for the rest of the season, but crucial for the Volunteers to make a bowl game. Jones has confidence in his team, and sees a bowl game in the near future. "When we go to a bowl game this year," Jones said Tuesday at the Knoxville Rotary Club, "we will have 14 college graduates on this year's team performing. It will be the most in the country."
The message is clear Jones has placed on his team and football program he is building – it's a message that has trickled down to his assistant coaches and players. "To me, the message from coach Jones is quite clear," Tennessee offensive line coach Don Mahoney said. "We're in game week mode and everything has picked up another notch.