It is paradoxical to say that a team can both maintain momentum and rebound from disappointment in the same game. Yet, that is the opportunity Kentucky has this weekend in their matchup with rival Tennessee. A win would mark a third in the last four games, move the Cats above .500 for the first time since early September and give them redemption from last year’s disappointing loss in Neyland Stadium. The Vols come in as winners in three of their previous four, but have yet to win a road game this season. Here’s what you need to know about Tennessee:
Jeremy Pruitt is in his second season as the head coach for the Vols. He took the position after serving as Alabama’s defensive coordinator, and has complied a 9-12 record in his stint in Knoxville.
Jim Chaney is back as the offensive coordinator, a position he held from 2009-2012. He spent the last three seasons as the OC for Georgia, and according to linebacker Jamar “Boogie Watson, has brought a lot of the same philosophies from his offenses there to Tennessee.
“A lot of twelve personnel, try to run the ball down your throat,” he said. “Max protect, take shots, and I think we’ll be ready for that.”
Derrick Ansley is the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. Chris Rumph coaches outside linebackers and is the co-defensive coordinator.
Tennessee has used multiple quarterbacks in each of the past seven games, and it is expected that they will continue to do so. Jarrett Guarantano is the most experienced of the bunch, having thrown over 160 times on the season for 1,287 yards and 11 touchdowns. Brian Maurer and J.T. Shrout have combined to throw just three touchdowns in their limited action.
The Vols have ran the ball almost one hundred times more than they’ve thrown it so far this season. Junior Ty Chandler has the most production, averaging over five yards per carry on 111 attempts and scoring three times. Fellow junior Tim Jordan has racked up more than 300 yards in his role, and freshman Eric Gray also gets a handful of touches per game. The quarterbacks account for about one-sixth of the team’s rushing attempts, so expect them to be involved in that aspect of the game as well.
Tennessee’s passing production isn’t prolific, but they have one option who garnered comparison to an NFL Hall of Famer from UK defensive coordinator Brad White.
“He’s physical, he’s got a great catch radius,” he said. “He’s not afraid to go over the middle, he’s not afraid to take a hit… he’s a lot like Terrell Owens in that regard.”
That would be receiver Jauan Jennings that White heaped praise on, who has hauled in 47 catches for 722 yards and seven touchdowns this season despite all the quarterbacks that have seen game action. No other Volunteer receiver has even half that number of receptions on the year. If other options will be involved, receivers Marquez Callaway and Josh Palmer are the likely two. Each has 18 catches, with Calloway finding the endzone four times.
Defensive back Nigel Warrior leads the team in tackles (50), and is tied for the lead in interceptions with secondary comrade Bryce Thompson at three apiece. Seven players for the Vols have multiple sacks, led by linebacker Darrell Taylor with six.
Linebacker Henry To’o To’o and defensive back Theo Jackson also make a big impact each week for Tennessee, ranking second and third on the team with 48 and 45 respectively.
Kickoff between Kentucky and Tennessee at Kroger Field is set for 7:30 p.m. The game can be seen on the SEC Network and the ESPN app.