Tennessee’s first real test has arrived. The Volunteers host the Pittsburgh Panthers this week, a game that could prove crucial if Tennessee is to get six wins this season.
That’s a big point ahead of the SEC game for Josh Heupel’s freshman squad – can they fix some offensive issues we saw in Game 1? Here’s what we’ll be watching.
Improved Joe Milton?
Let’s face it, Milton has to be better this week. The glimpses were there, but things really fell off a cliff after those first two touchdowns. It wasn’t all on him – the staff noted incorrect readings from the receiver and obviously a few drops hurt. But Milton needs to speed up his process and get the ball out of his hands faster, and that’s something the staff can help him do with play calls. It’s probably worth noting that we probably don’t. not seen the whole playbook in the first week. That will change this weekend.
“You can make your biggest jump from week 1 to week 2,” Heupel said on the SEC teleconference Wednesday. “That doesn’t always mean it’s going to happen. I think you have the opportunity to constantly improve yourself as a quarterback. Really for him, the structure of what we saw the other night was different from what we had planned to see. His ability to understand what we’re doing, to be able to put his eyes in the right place, and ultimately that will get him to the right wide receiver. All of our quarterbacks grow into what we do offensively. I think he will continue to understand the reason behind what we call it and that he will be able to spot the right guy and follow the progress. “
Tennessee fled with the game against Bowling Green thanks to their rushed attack. They probably won’t be able to make it on Saturday – especially if Tiyon Evans can’t go – so Milton’s efficiency is needed. Let’s see how he reacts.
Bigger test for an improved defensive front
The Tennessee defensive line completely destroyed Bowling Green, as they should have. With such an inferior opponent, it’s hard to draw too many conclusions, although the performance of this group has been outstanding.
Now we find out what they’re made of. Pittsburgh is not a behemoth program, but they have a lot of stability and continuity in their favor.
“They’re very talented,” Tennessee defensive coordinator Tim Banks said. “Talented guys who are running backs who have been around for a long time. These guys have played football a lot for them, and they’re really big up front. We will have our hands full. We understand what the expectations are in terms of the physique these guys will try to play with and we’ll have to try to match that and play with the same energy and advantage, but overall this is a veteran attacking group and they played together for a long time. “
Matthew Butler, Elijah Simmons and Tyler Baron all flashed Bowling Green, and the spin is deep. Now, with an equal opponent visiting Knoxville, we should have a better idea of where this unit is.
For what it’s worth, Pittsburgh placed 111th on floor a year ago. So even though their forehead played a lot together, it didn’t produce a lot of production. Tennessee need their defensive line to show up and show up on Saturday.
Bounce moment for Jalin Hyatt; Velus Jones Jr. more involved?
What started out as a big night for Jalin Hyatt turned south as the match progressed. Four quick catches allowed Hyatt to sit down with 64 yards after a quarter-game, but the second failed to catch another pass – he actually dropped two that would have been big plays for an offense who needed it.
Hyatt will have every chance to put that behind it on Saturday. He’s the most dynamic threat in the receiving room, and the assists will continue to come to him. We didn’t see that much in vertical play last week, I’d like to see that change on Saturday.
Will Tennessee make more predetermined quick hitters for Milton? If they do, expect Velus Jones Jr. to be more involved. The elder didn’t grab a pass last week, which was quite shocking. That should change this week.
Big first place for Jaylen Wright; How much can the Jabari Small handle?
Rumored Tiyon Evans seems to have legs. Jimmy Hyams reports that he is uncertain for Saturday which would deal a heavy blow to the hasty attack on Tennessee. It would put a lot of stuff on Jabari Small’s plate and put real freshman Jaylen Wright right in the spotlight.
Wright generated some buzz during the spring and fall camps, stepping forward quickly and up the running back depth chart. He established himself as the # 3 option for Tennessee and got a few points late in the game against Bowling Green.
What is going on behind Wright? Last week it was Marcus Pierce – could it be Dee Beckwith or Len’Neth Whitehead? That’s a pretty big unknown for this one.
Kick-off is scheduled for noon ET on Saturday, and ESPN will have live coverage of Knoxville.