Editor’s note: For SEC games this season, Daniel Lewis will be putting together a blueprint for how Tennessee can have its best chance to knock off that week’s opponent. It’s written from a Tennessee coach’s mindset and isn’t necessarily representative of how RTI predicts the game to go.
Offense: Preparing for the Ole Miss defense feels like looking at Alabama’s in the past. There just aren’t noticeable holes to exploit – anywhere. We’re going to need our players to execute at the highest level of the season, we have to take care of the football and, as coaches, we need to manufacture some opportunities to put points the board.
There are two players we need to locate on each play: defensive end C.J. Johnson and cornerback Senquez Golson. In Johnson’s case, we’re going to run right at him on run plays and make sure he’s accounted for on passes. He’s a strong pass rusher, but at 225 pounds, if we can get our hands on him, we’ll move him at the point of attack and sneak in some 4-5 yards runs to help our offense out. In Golson’s case, we’re throwing away from him in most cases. He’s just too good with five interceptions this season. If that largely takes Marquez North out of the game, so be it. We do have a height edge there, so if we’re going to take our shot at him, it has to be a high-point type of ball that either North gets or nobody gets.
We’re not even going to throw many drop-back passes. With Golson, Cody Prewitt and others back there, we’re going to look for quick strikes that take their defensive line out of the equation as much as possible. We just can’t block them for four seconds. We need runs after the catch. Thankfully, Von Pearson had a better week in practice and we’re going to look for him a lot and find different ways to get him, Pig Howard and our other targets the ball in space.
Putting 30+ points on the board isn’t realistic in this game, but we can play complimentary football. We’ll find the end zone twice, hit a field goal or two and help our defense in the field position game. If we get a short field or two or the defense/special teams can score itself, we’ll have a real shot in this one. Ole Miss is very good, but they are due for somewhat of an emotional letdown after two huge wins. And remember the Memphis and Boise State games? They’re human. We just have to be at our best and maybe hope for a break or two.
Defense: If there’s anything we have experience at, it’s containing a quarterback who can run. Five of the six we’ve seen this year were mobile, so we’re going to remember our discipline when it comes to containing Bo Wallace.
We’re not going to be able to support in the run game as much as we did in the last three games. The Ole Miss passing attack is too good – it’s their strength on offense. They have five WRs/TEs that have put up significant numbers this year and they all know how to get downfield because each averages at least 13.8 yards per catch.
That means winning individual matchups will be crucial. The front seven has to get off blocks because we’re not always going to have numbers in the box. And we’re not going to be able to sell-out to stop Laquon Treadwell in the secondary. Vince Sanders, Cody Core, Evan Engram and others are talented enough to make us pay. Yes, Treadwell will be the focus, but we’re not going to be able to assign two guys to him every play or shade the entire defense his way.
We have very little margin for error and we need to help the offense out. Wallace has played two of the better games of his career the past couple weeks, but turnovers are in his DNA. He might be pressing a touch against his home-state school, so we’ll disguise some coverages, mix up the defensive fronts and bring pressure at times.
At the end of the day, we need to keep them under 27 points or so to have a realistic shot in this one. And, if we’re being honest, we probably need to score at least one touchdown of our own to get out of there with the W.