4 second-half goals Vols must accomplish
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Where does Team 120 go from here?
Seven games down, and five remaining following this week’s bye, separate the Vols from establishing themselves as SEC East champions – as they were picked to be during SEC media days.
The Vols are off this week, but they’re not idle. Here are four things they must accomplish in order to represent the SEC East in Atlanta Dec. 3.
1) Get healthier: It’s simple, rest up. The Vols are good enough to win the remaining games by getting a fraction of their injured players back with at least 17 players banged up.
The biggest unit that needs to get healthy the quickest is the offensive line. As long as parts of the line are in place throughout the final four SEC games, that will be enough for Josh Dobbs to have enough time to orchestrate the offense. The Vols should be able to score against South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt in these final games.
Last week against Alabama, the Tennessee offensive line was decimated. It had to go in panic mode and remove the redshirt off of freshman offensive tackle Marcus Tatum.
Left guard Jashon Robertson (leg), center Dylan Wiesman (head), left tackle Brett Kendrick (leg), right tackle Chance Hall (unknown), and right guard Jack Jones all are banged up and have missed time.
Jones had surgery on his hand, but is expected to be back for the South Carolina game following the bye week.
2) Offensive identity: The offense, when healthy, has shown it’s capable of scoring on anyone. It sounds like an excuse, but the injuries, particularly on the line, have impacted what they’ve been able to do offensively.
One of the keys moving forward is determining how to use Jalen Hurd, especially now that Alvin Kamara has joined the injured list.
He also has been hurt. But will the Vols continue to use him in a ground-and-pound attack? And how can Dobbs get play-makers at wide receiver more involved? All are areas to look at if the Vols want a chance to play for the conference championship, and to have a chance once they get there.
3) Getting the youth involved: With numerous players being banged up and even out, the Vols could lean to some of their younger and newer players. Having guys such as Brandon Johnson, Marquez Callaway, Tyler Byrd, Latrell Williams and Jeff George play a part in the equation can help the offense and special teams.
4) Getting John Kelly involved: It was reported Tuesday that Kamara will miss 2-4 weeks. Kamara was not heavily involved in the scheme early, but has played a bigger role as of late. He was sensational against Texas A&M.
His absence means more opportunities for sophomore John Kelly. Kelly relieved Hurd in the Texas A&M game when Hurd was injured and did not travel to College Station.
On the season, Kelly has rushed for 115 yards on 19 carries and has scored two touchdowns. Kelly has also caught three passes for 22 yards. Last year, Kelly rushed for 165 yards on 40 carries and scored one touchdown.