Tennessee announces sellout for big game against Ole Miss

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Tennessee's depth chart for Ole Miss game

247Sports 13 October, 2021 - 09:31am

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Through the first half of the season, Tennessee's rotations and who stands where on the depth chart are pretty clear on both sides of the football. The Vols are dealing with several injuries on both sides of the football, but have been able to get important contributions from those stepping up into increased roles. Tennessee will hope some of those absent players can return this week, though their statuses for Ole Miss will be determined over the course of the week.

Here is Tennessee's depth chart (and, more importantly, the pertinent personnel notes for each position) for the game against Ole Miss.

1. (5) Hendon Hooker (R-Sr., 6-4/218)

2. (7) Joe Milton III (R-Jr., 6-5/244)

3. (15) Harrison Bailey (Soph., 6-5/220)

How good has Hooker been for Tennessee this season? The Virginia Tech transfer is completing 69.6% of his passes and averaging 9.5 yards per attempt and (as a starter) 275 yards of total offense per game, and he has 13 touchdown passes (plus three rushing scores) with just one interception. Hooker is ranked fifth nationally and first in the SEC in passer rating and he's turnover-free in SEC play, and best of all for the Vols he appears to be getting better each week.

“Confidence, comfort, decision-making, taking care of the football. All that comes with some time on task inside of the offense,” Heupel said Monday. “Whether it’s check and run-run, check and run-pass, whether it’s RPO game, whether it’s drop back, better decision-making — the more time you have in it, the more comfort you have, the ability to handle and play within himself while we're playing with tempo, all those things. He's become a better (leader), more vocal, more ownership on the football field and in the locker with our team as well.”

1. (8) Tiyon Evans (Jr., 5-11/220) OR (2) Jabari Small (Soph., 5-11/206)

2. (27) Len'Neth Whitehead (R-Fr., 6-2/220)

2. (20) Jaylen Wright (Fr., 5-11/200)

Tennessee played the South Carolina game a little shorthanded in the backfield with Small held out due to his shoulder injury and Wright not playing, and Whitehead and walk-on Marcus Pierce Jr. had to finish the game after Evans departed in the third quarter with an apparent ankle injury. Evans, who had 119 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries against the Gamecocks, should be fine for Ole Miss, though. Said Heupel after the game: “At the end of (the game) we just didn’t want to put him in. We’ll find out more as the week goes on.”

Whitehead scored his first career touchdown in the fourth quarter against South Carolina, but the Vols will hope Small, a one-time Ole Miss commitment, can return and join Evans in giving Tennessee its top tandem in the backfield against the Rebels.

1. (1) Velus Jones Jr. (R-Sr., 6-0/200) OR (3) JaVonta Payton (Sr., 6-1/180)

1. (11) Jalin Hyatt (Soph., 6-0/175)

2. (19) Walker Merrill (Fr., 6-1/190) OR (9) Jimmy Calloway (Soph., 6-0/190)

1. (4) Cedric Tillman (R-Jr., 6-3/215)

2. (80) Ramel Keyton (Jr., 6-3/195)

Tennessee again went with its smaller rotation at receiver, relying heavily on Payton and Tillman outside and Jones in the slot. Payton caught a touchdown for the fourth straight game, Jones went over 100 yards with another big YAC day and Tillman bullied South Carolina's defensive backs as a pass-catcher and blocker. Hyatt caught his first passes since the opener and scored the game's opening touchdown, while Keyton also got some rotational snaps, but it's all about the veteran trio of Payton, Jones and Tillman right now for the Vols.

”Those guys have played really well,” Heupel said Monday. “They’ve been good as far as being able to read coverage and settle down in zones, be in the right spot versus man-to-man (coverage) for the quarterback. They’ve won one-on-ones. They’ve taken great care of the football at this point when they have the ball in their hands. Velus has done a tremendous job with yards after the catch. We felt like that group had a chance to grow.

”I still feel like their best football is still (coming) here in the back half of the season, but they’ve got a great understanding of what we're doing right now.”

1. (87) Jacob Warren (R-Jr., 6-6/246) OR (88) Princeton Fant (R-Sr., 6-2/240)

Warren and Fant continue in a bit of a timeshare although their opportunities in the passing game have dried up with just three combined catches despite the fireworks on offense in the past two games. On Tennessee's first series, Warren was wide open on a wheel route for a would-be touchdown, but a breakdown in protection resulted in a sack before the pass could be thrown. Fant did some good work on the perimeter as a blocker, but had a drop. Freshman Miles Campbell got on to a couple of special teams units against South Carolina, it's worth noting, and took a short kickoff 18 yards past the 25 against the Gamecocks in what was his second appearance of the season.

1. (58) Darnell Wright (Jr., 6-6/335)

2. (53) Jeremiah Crawford (Jr., 6-5/315)

1. (75) Jerome Carvin (Sr., 6-5/318)

2. (50) Jackson Lampley (R-Soph., 6-4/320) OR (77) Chris Akporoghene (R-Soph., 6-3/310)

1. (63) Cooper Mays (Soph., 6-3/295)

2. (78) Ollie Lane (R-Jr., 6-4/325)

3. (65) Parker Ball (R-Soph., 6-4/290)

1. (76) Javontez Spraggins (Soph., 6-3/320)

2. (54) Kingston Harris (R-Jr., 6-3/326)

1. (68) Cade Mays (Sr., 6-6/325)

2. (66) Dayne Davis (R-Soph., 6-7/325)

For the second straight week, the Vols rolled with Carvin at center and Lane at left guard in the absences of Cooper Mays and Harris. There's a chance Mays (ankle) could return against Ole Miss, which would slide Carvin back to left guard. The senior has gotten increasingly comfortable as the tempo-setter at center the past two games after initially struggling with the move from his normal position. The Vols were able to get their second unit of (left to right) Crawford, James Robinson, Ball, Lampley and Davis a handful of snaps late in the win against South Carolina, but this remains a dangerously-thin group.

1. (48) Ja'Quain Blakely (R-Sr., 6-2/270)

2. (97) Caleb Tremblay (R-Sr., 6-5/280)

1. (94) Matthew Butler (Sr., 6-4/295)

2. (11) LaTrell Bumphus (Sr., 6-3/280)

1. (51) Elijah Simmons (R-Soph., 6-2/350)

2. (95) Da'Jon Terry (R-Soph., 6-4/325)

3. (21) Omari Thomas (Soph., 6-4/316)

1. (9) Tyler Baron (Soph., 6-5/260)

2. (6) Byron Young (6-3/245)

3. (30) Roman Harrison (Jr., 6-2/240)

With Simmons (leg) not playing, Tennessee again made a couple of changes to the starting lineup and kept a healthy rotation on the defensive line against the Gamecocks. Young made the first start of his career and was active with multiple pressures plus a sack and tackle for loss, and Kurott Garland started alongside Thomas (who again started in place of Simmons), bumping Butler out of the starting quartet. Of course, Butler still played the most snaps of the defensive tackles (Young, Terry and Garland all were around 30 snaps) and recorded a sack even after not starting. Among the defensive ends, Blakely (six tackles and a tackle for loss) and Harrison played more than 40 snaps with Young and Tremblay around 30 and the banged-up Baron, who had a sack, closer to 20.

1. (10) Juwan Mitchell (Sr., 6-1/226)

2. (24) Aaron Beasley (Jr., 6-1/225)

1. (33) Jeremy Banks (R-Jr., 6-1/224)

2. (38) Solon Page III (R-Sr., 6-2/223)

The depth chart was released before Heupel's announcement on Monday that Mitchell, the transfer from Texas, would be sidelined the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. The Vols have gotten used to playing without Mitchell because he's missed three of the past four games, and their season-opening four-man rotation has been down to the pair-and-a-spare trio of Banks (five starts), Beasley (four starts) and Page (two starts). In SEC play, Banks has 20 tackles, four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, Beasley has 23 tackles and two TFLs and Page has a dozen tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Those three are playing well enough that Tennessee might opt to stick with it instead of forcing a fourth linebacker into the rotation just to make up for Mitchell's absence, but one of Kwauze Garland and William Mohan likely would be the next in line, followed by freshman Aaron Willis.

1. (2) Alontae Taylor (Sr., 6-0/193)

2. (29) Brandon Turnage (R-Soph., 6-1/186)

1. (4) Warren Burrell (Jr., 6-0/190)

2. (5) Kenneth George Jr. (R-Sr., 5-11/200)

1. (26) Theo Jackson (Sr., 6-2/203)

2. (0) Doneiko Slaughter (Soph., 6-0/190)

Tennessee found itself in a bit of a pinch at the Star spot after Jackson and Slaughter were hurt against Missouri, the former leaving the game after a big helmet-to-helmet collision and the latter limping off late on, and couldn't play against South Carolina. No problem, though, as the Vols plugged in Turnage, the transfer from Alabama, and hardly missed a beat. Turnage shined in his first career start, leading the Vols with 14 tackles, including two tackles for loss, and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.

“A young man that since he’s come in the building, has had great work habits and has continued to invest,” Heupel said Monday. “Battled a little bit of injury during training camp, which set his timetable back, maybe just a little bit. Guy that’s done a good job on special teams when given the opportunity. Has continued to invest. Has great knowledge and ability to play multiple spots. Gets his opportunity last Saturday, smart, competitive and played with great effort and played with great technique. Proud of what he did on Saturday.”

1. (22) Jaylen McCollough (Jr., 6-0/205)

2. (14) Christian Charles (Fr., 6-1/186)

1. (1) Trevon Flowers (Sr., 5-11/200)

2. (12) Tamarion McDonald (Soph., 6-2/200)

Tennessee had to shuffle the lineup on its back line multiple times against Missouri, when Charles started as a replacement for Flowers, was replaced by Jackson when he got hurt and McDonald finished the game when Jackson departed. It was back to the normal tandem of McCollough and Flowers against South Carolina and both went the distance in the win. McCollough notched his third interception in four games and Flowers returned with a nine-tackle performance. The emergence of Turnage has increased Tennessee's options in the secondary should Jackson indeed return against Ole Miss — do the Vols keep Turnage at the Star and slide Jackson back to safety in place of either McCollough or Flowers?

Of course, Tennessee could opt for more six-defensive back packages and it'll be all hands on deck in the secondary against the Rebels' high-powered attack this week.

1. (40) Chase McGrath (R-Sr., 6-0/195)

2. (38) Toby Wilson (R-Jr., 5-10/182)

1. (37) Paxton Brooks (Sr., 6-6/195)

2. (93) Kolby Morgan (Fr., 5-11/195)

1. (38) Toby Wilson (R-Jr., 5-10/182)

2. (37) Paxton Brooks (Sr., 6-6/195)

1. (47) Matthew Salansky (R-Soph., 5-11/245)

1. (37) Paxton Brooks (Sr., 6-6/195)

1. (1) Velus Jones Jr. (R-Sr., 6-0/200) AND (8) Tiyon Evans (Jr., 5-11/220)

1. (26) Theo Jackson (Sr., 6-2/203) OR (1) Velus Jones Jr. (R-Sr., 6-0/200)

In addition to his breakout on offense, Jones currently ranks first in the SEC in punt-return average (after returns of 17 and 19 yards against South Carolina) and third in the conference in kickoff-return average. McGrath is 6-of-7 on field goals, bouncing back with three makes on short field goals after his miss at the end of the first half at Florida. Brooks returned from not having to punt against Missouri with five punts for a 44-yard average against South Carolina, and Wilson continues to do a solid job on kickoffs with eight touchbacks on 18 kickoffs the past two games.

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Ole Miss Looks Towards a Night Matchup Against Tennessee on Rocky Top - HottyToddy

HottyToddy.com 13 October, 2021 - 09:31am

The Ole Miss Rebels are off to a 4-1 overall start and a 1-1 mark in the SEC after a 52-51 victory over Arkansas on Saturday. The Rebels now turn their attention to this week’s matchup at Tennessee.

Head coach Lane Kiffin met with the media on Monday during his weekly press conference and discussed the Volunteers.

“(Tennessee) is a very challenging place to play,” Kiffin said. Coach added that he heard this was supposed to be their first sellout in years.

The atmosphere at Neyland Stadium can make it difficult for opposing teams.

“A very loud place especially at night,” Kiffin said. “(Tennessee) a team that is playing extremely well with two conference blowouts in a row.”

Tennessee is coming off victories over South Carolina (45-20) and Missouri (62-24) in head coach Josh Heupel’s first year at the helm.

“They run the ball really well with tempo,” Kiffin said. “Hitting big plays outside. We’ve seen it and we’ve lived it at FAU.”

The Rebels and Volunteers have similarities on offense.

“A Tempo aspect of how (the offense) is managed and practiced,” Kiffin said. “How receivers play positions and give the ball all that is the same.”

Ole Miss and Tennessee will face-off at 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network.

“The game is going to be extremely challenging,” Kiffin said.

Hotty Toddy News is the trusted source for news, sports, and more in the LOU community. Follow us (@HottyToddyNews) for the latest coverage.

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