Vols' running game matches up well against Gamecocks' defense
As the Volunteers prepare to return to game action following their bye week, the process of placing full attention on getting healthier for the next game week is now behind Team 120.
The Vols are now in preparation to travel to Columbia and take on South Carolina under the lights of Williams-Brice Stadium.
Credit Butch Jones for giving his players rest last week, including a day off last Wednesday. The extended period of rest should pay dividends for the team during its final five-game regular season stretch.
“Wednesday, we were supposed to have practice and everyone was taped up, but you could tell there was a little bit of fatigue on the team for sure,” tight end Ethan Wolf told UTsports.com. “Going through a seven-game grind like that, exhaustion is expected. Coach made a gut call and rewarded us with a day off to go see a movie. I think it helped us as a team to re-energize and have time to lay back for an extra day and get ready for this week.”
Now that the time to rest is in the rearview mirror and the install is now here to prepare for South Carolina, the Vols may not have to change much, if any, in attacking the Gamecocks’ defense.
South Carolina fields a unit that is giving up 211 yards rushing on average (10th in the SEC). Tennessee’s emphasis offensively is running the ball in its spread attack, averaging 169.6 rushing yards per game. South Carolina is not quick off the edges with its defensive ends, making the matchup against Jalen Hurd and Josh Dobbs in the Vols’ favor.
“We just didn’t finish a lot of things right,” Gamecocks linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams told the Independent Mail after giving up 142 rushing yards to UMass last week. “We had a lot of mental errors. That’s something we have to improve on coming in next week, because we’re facing a very good (Tennessee) offensive team.”
The emphasis for South Carolina will be stopping the run, something Tennessee has done well during Jones’ entire tenure at Tennessee. The key will be how well the Gamecocks can handle the Vols out on the edges, a staple identity in the Tennessee run game of getting to the outside, especially with Hurd. The South Carolina linebackers will have to play in position, east-to-west, to make up for a defensive line that has not played well from side to sideline.
“Our goal is to stop the run. First of all, that’s what we come out there to do,” South Carolina linebacker T.J. Holloman said. “We believe we have a good enough front to put pressure on the quarterbacks, and our secondary is good at covering, so our main goal is to force the opponent to pass the ball.”
Some of the miscues on defense are an example of the Gamecocks being in transition under first-year head coach Will Muschamp.
“We didn’t have enough production from any one player of the game,” Muschamp said, according to The State. “But we are one of seven teams in the country not to allow 30 points or more this year, so we are doing some good things.”
“We’re not a team that comes away, thinks, ‘We gave up 28 points, that’s OK,’” Allen-Williams said. “That’s not OK to us. Our target goal is 16 points a game, four turnovers every game. That’s just something that we want as a defense. That’s our standard.”
South Carolina will have to be successful in stopping the Tennessee run game if it wants to keep its streak of not giving up 30 points to opponents this season and upset the Vols.