Welcome to this week’s edition of The Hill. After losing to Georgia two weeks ago, the Vols have had some time to regroup. Tennessee used last week to work on the things that plagued them in their first two SEC games. They had some physical practices and had an opportunity to move some guys around to get some different looks. The two guys we really think may have an impact on the Mississippi State game are Daniel McCullers staying on the field more in pass rush situations and the addition of Jaron Toney in the nickel package. Toney saw some snaps last season at RB, but this week he will start at the STAR in place of Eric Gordon. Expect him to get tested early not only through the air but on the ground. As poorly as the secondary has tackled, there should be some zone read and speed sweeps to test the discipline of the guys on the edge. It seems that even when the guys in orange are in position to make easy plays in space, they have consistently missed tackles and flat out burned with speed. Those ingredients have been a recipe for disaster. While the defense has given up big plays in every game this season, Florida and Georgia combined for six plays that racked up over 400 yards. If the defense can stop that trend, you have to like Tennessee’s chances.
On the other side of the ball, expect the offense to have a lot of success against the Mississipi State defense. They have a decent secondary but unless they get after Tyler Bray, he has proven he can pick a good secondary apart. It is obvious that State doesn’t have the type of front seven Florida and Georgia does, so couple that inability to get pressure on the QB with a solid performance from Rajion Neal and it could be a repeat of the success the offense had against NC State.
This game will be a good indicator for how the rest of this season will go. A win could reignite the fan base and it should be an emotional night when Alabama comes into town on Oct. 20th. A loss could set Derek Dooley up for a third straight season where he goes winless vs. UGA, Bama, and USC. If that happens, who knows what happens against Missouri. While a win over a MSU, whose best win is over Auburn, won’t undo all the negative feelings about Derek Dooley, a loss could completely cause this situation to unravel.
As it was mentioned early, a win this weekend is imperative because the staff has been pointing to the Alabama game as the second biggest weekend for recruiting this season. The coaches continue to work hard to get several big names in town for the Alabama game and it would be nice to have the type of atmosphere for that game as there was for the Florida game.
So, let’s talk about some guys that will likely be here next weekend. WR Marquez North’s father said this week that his son would be in attendance. He was really impressed with his visit to The Swamp last week but the Vols still lead. North has mentioned that he would like to end the process soon and with Tennessee having been in the driver seat for a while it looks like the nation’s #2 WR will be apart of the great legacy of wide receivers at UT. North was measured was reportedly measured as 6’’4’ 220 pounds in Gainesville. He doesn’t have tremendous speed, which may keep him from becoming a 5 star later on, but he is really physical and can be very effective in the middle of the field. He and Paul Harris would be quite a duo for this class. He Coach Sal Sunseri is been after the #1 WR in the country, Robert Foster. The Vols are making a big push with him and it’s possible they get him to OV as well.
One guy that Tennessee will need to make up some ground with is DB Von Bell. There has been a lot of talk about Alabama moving up the list but Ohio State is still the biggest threat with him. According to his father, Urban Myer is calling him nearly every day. So, the staff really needs to make him feel at home when he visits next week.
There are also several guys who are currently committed elsewhere who should be visiting. DB Marquez White says he will be in attendance as well. The 3 star CB is currently committed to Florida State, but says the Big Orange have stayed after him. He is now listening and he has the type of speed that Tennessee needs in the secondary. But there is a lot of ground to make up there. CB Brendan Langley is giving Tennessee another look. He is committed to South Carolina and also really likes Georgia. Tennessee is probably third in the race at this point.
DE/OLB Naim Mustafaa has been a Dawg for a while now, but has made it clear that Tennessee is still in it. It seems he hasn’t been a big fan of how the Georgia staff has recruited other LBs after he committed. There have been a lot of questions asked about DE/LB Carl Lawson. The thing is he has said on 3-4 instances that he would be coming in for a visit. Some people close to him have said he is pretty firm to Auburn even with their poor start. Once again he is saying he will likely come up next Saturday, but until he does it is hard to say we have a good shot at flipping him. We know that he also called the Florida staff on Sunday trying to possibly visit them later in the year.
Tennessee still doesn’t have a commitment from a running back in the ’13 class. Right now they are in good shape with several. Derrick Green is the name that has a lot of fans excited because he is rated as the #1 RB in the country. It is a UT-Mich battle now with Auburn sitting in third. He will be visiting Michigan on the 20th as they take on Michigan State. If they have another poor showing it could bode well for Tennessee. AJ Turman is the second back that we are in really good standing with. He said this week he is in no hurry to make a decision but the Vols are leading with him. David Williams would be a nice change of pace back. He provides some more speed. This will be a TN-South Carolina battle. Peyton Barber, teammate of Carl Lawson, is someone we haven’t heard a lot about but he is moving up the board. One last RB to watch is Jordan Wilkins. He expressed his displeasure with the amount of attention he has received from the Auburn staff since committing. He is looking into visiting some other schools before the end of the season, so we will keep you updated on his situation.
LB Yannick Ngakoue has reopened his recruitment. The one time Maryland commit now has the Vols and Gamecocks at the top of his list. Tennessee really needs to get him on campus this season to stay a factor.
It is obvious that Tennessee needs some speed in the secondary. CA Athlete Drake Martinez is probably a new name to most fans here, but he is no stranger to this coaching staff. The younger brother of current Nebraska QB, Taylor Martinez says that while he has no offer yet, Tennessee is recruiting him the hardest right now. He will probably play strong safety at the next level. His forty time is somewhere in the 4.4 range. When you watch his defensive tape, his physicality jumps out at you. He is constantly delivering knockout blows.