Five impact players to watch for Tennessee vs. Arkansas
Thanks to heartbreaking September losses to Oklahoma and Florida, the Vols fan base may be emotionally spent after just one month of regular-season football.
The good news for the Vols faithful is that they are just 0-1 in the conference, with a prime opportunity to take down a struggling Arkansas team at Neyland Stadium on Saturday to secure their first SEC win of the season and reassert themselves as potential contenders for the SEC East crown.
Here are five impact players to watch (in no particular order) as Tennessee tries to pick up the pieces from a disappointing September by grabbing an October win against the Razorbacks:
1. Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs – Dobbs did a little bit of everything during Tennessee’s loss at Florida last week, including rushing for a game-high 136 yards, catching a 58-yard touchdown pass and, oh yeah, occasionally throwing the ball for 83 yards passing. If the Vols are going to beat Arkansas, he’s going to again have to serve as a multifaceted threat to the defense. Only this time, I’d venture a guess that Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord will make a concerted effort to give Dobbs some opportunities to make some plays as a passer this week. It will help keep the defense honest, as it was clear the Gators defense was anticipating run for much of the second half after Vols enjoyed early ground success.
2. Tennessee TE Ethan Wolf – Speaking of the Vols passing attack, it has been terribly frustrating to watch for many Tennessee fans through the first four games. The wide receivers have been unreliable from game to game, though some of that has to do with play calling. Wolf is the team’s leading pass catcher (11) and also leads with 126 yards receiving. If the coaching staff is going to continue to be hesitant to throw the ball down the field, Wolf is likely to continue to be the most comfortable option for Dobbs.
3. Tennessee LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin – If there was any doubt as to who would become the defense’s leader with Curt Maggitt out of the lineup due to injury, those questions have been answered now by both the play and the leadership of Reeves-Maybin. He has become the most important cog to this defense. With 41 tackles and seven tackles for loss through the first third of the season, there’s no one that even comes close to his level of production. And as such a significant contributor, a strong performance from Reeves-Maybin is almost a necessity if the Vols plan to stop the Arkansas rushing attack and come away with a victory.
4. Tennessee P Trevor Daniel – If Saturday’s contest becomes a field position battle, the Vols are in pretty good shape with Daniel in their corner. The sophomore has flourished in the early part of the season, ranking fifth in the nation with a punting average of 48.6 yards, which is aided by 11 kicks of 50 yards or more. In fact, all four of Daniel’s punts against the Gators last week went more than 50 yards. It’s not popular to talk about punters, but his performance could certainly be the different between a win and a loss if the game with Arkansas is as close as is anticipated.
5. Tennessee SS LaDarrell McNeil – Amidst what has been a rough patch for the Vols, McNeil’s successful return from a preseason neck injury should be considered not only a pleasant surprise for the Vols but a serious boost in morale for the secondary moving forward. Not only has he beaten the odds against an injury that some feared may have cost the senior his final season, but he’s had an immediate impact upon his return with interceptions in both contests in which he has played. Look for McNeil to continue to be a key contributor to the Vols defense this week against the Razorbacks.