Tennessee vs South Carolina Preview: Vols look to continue momentum

Tennessee vs South Carolina
Courtesy of Vol Football on Twitter

Tennessee has played very well to start out the season. Especially if you consider the lack of talent and the situation that first-year head coach Josh Heupel obtained when he came to Tennessee early this year. The Vols are 3-2 (1-1) in the first five games of the Heupel era and have gotten better every game as the weeks go by. The consistent improvement from week to week is something refreshing for Vol fans. 

Tennessee fans have not seen a team get better from week to week in a very long time. Tennessee welcomes the South Carolina Gamecocks to Neyland Saturday to play the Vols fourth noon game of the season. What must Tennessee do vs South Carolina to walk away with a win?

Defense must attack a weak South Carolina offense.

Photo courtesy of Vol Football

Fans should expect to see linebackers Jay Blakely and Tyler Baron to have huge days on the defensive end. If you have watched South Carolina on offense this season, you would have seen the majority of their run plays are outside of the tackles. This is due to the lackluster performance from the Gamecocks’ offensive line so far in this season.

South Carolina comes into this game only rushing for 605 yards and with one touchdown. To give some comparison, the Vols had five rushing touchdowns in their blowout win on the road in Columbus last Saturday against the Tigers. Tennessee needs to win the trenches and it starts on the defensive end this Saturday.

The offense must continue to stay fast and aggressive.

Tennessee has moved faster than anyone in the country on offense so far in the 2021 season; a lot of that has to be accredited to the preparation from this coaching staff. Coach Heupel stressed last weekend just how important the final 48 hours leading up to kick-off have been. The synchronization on offense is crucial to the speed the Vols play with.

Furthermore, Senior red-shirt quarterback Hendon Hooker, has handled it nicely in his three and a half games for Tennessee. In fact, you could make a reasonable argument that UT is 4-1 if Hooker gets the start from the get go. Hooker has not turned the ball over in the past 3 games and has looked more composed than any Tennessee QB we’ve saw in the past five years.

The rushing attack, along with Hooker’s playmaking ability, produce a deadly combination for opposing defenses; expect big numbers from the Vols this Saturday against the Gamecocks.

Tennessee enters ‘Dark Mode.’

This isn’t necessarily a key to victory, but the Vols unveiled their new ‘Dark Mode’ jerseys on Wednesday much to the teams and (most of) the fanbase’s delight. Now whether or not you’re a traditionalist, or you don’t care what we wear (like myself), it’s clear to see that the day and age we are in that gimmicks matter. Checker Neyland, smokey greys, and now black uniforms are just a few examples of the Vols attempt at joining the notion.

It helps in recruiting and creates a buzz that simply would not be there. Josh Heupel is in the middle of a culture upheaval and has a lot of work to do to change the brand of Tennessee Football. The players love it, and Coach Heupel has a job to do both on and off the field. If Heupel wants to use uniforms to create excitement and boost recruitment, then I am all for it.

As Tennessee welcomes South Carolina to Neyland stadium this Saturday, the Vols should have zero trouble putting away the Gamecocks early in this ballgame. If Heupel wants to solidify growth and productivity, games like this on vs South Carolina are the ones Tennessee must win.

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