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RTI Film Study Preview: Indiana State

Indiana State is coached by one of Butch Jones’ former colleagues, Curt Mallory. He was on the Central Michigan staff with Jones in 2001 as the defensive backs coach. And when Mallory brings his Indiana State Sycamores to Knoxville this weekend, he’ll bring a team that had four more days to prepare than the Volunteers. Indiana State opened their 2017 season on August 31st while the Vols opened theirs on September 4th.

There are some parallels between these two teams that will meet on Saturday. Tennessee won a heartbreaker on Monday, and the Sycamores lost a heartbreaker on Thursday.

Indiana State lost to one of its biggest rivals to open their 2017 season. For the first time since 2009, the Sycamores faced off with Eastern Illinois. And in the first game of the Mallory era, Indiana State fell short, losing 22-20 thanks to a late fourth quarter score by Eastern Illinois.

EIU scored a touchdown with three seconds left on the clock to win the game, propelling them past the Sycamores.

The Sycamores, like the Vols, also don’t know who their quarterback is.

Isaac Harker started for Indiana State against Eastern Illinois last week, but he was pulled from the game prior to the final drive in the first half. Harker finished the game 4-for-10 with 38 yards, a touchdown and a pick-six.

When you look back at the film from this year or last year, the Sycamores’ play design breaks down very early. This game will feature a great opportunity for Darrell Taylor and Jonathan Kongbo to record a lot of sacks.

But the challenge that comes with a weak offensive line is the improvisation from the quarterback. Whether it’s Harker or redshirt freshman Cade Sparks, UT’s defensive line should be licking its chops.

On these two plays, Tennessee needs to just keep contain. The can’t let the quarterback extend the play with his legs. On the back side of the defense, the corners and safeties will have to stay in their coverages longer than they usually would, which has been difficult for the Vols in the past.

That should present a challenge for a UT defense that didn’t see a lot of deep passing attempts last week against Georgia Tech.

Those previous plays are from the Sycamores’ game against FCS runners-up Youngstown State last season. Indiana State lost that game 13-10 thanks to a punt return touchdown that made the difference. But the Sycamores went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in FCS last year.

Much like the Vols, the Sycamores have a running back with an elite yards per carry average. LeMonte Booker carried the ball 31 times for 154 yards in week one, averaging five yards per attempt.

Like Georgia Tech, Indiana State wants to get blockers to the second level to cut block UT’s defense. On the first play, you can see a guard pulling ahead of Booker to cut a defender out of the way. FCS teams with less athleticism have to rely on that sort of blocking in order to give themselves a chance to move the ball.

Tennessee can stop them by getting by the initial block. We’ll see a lot of these plays to try to get Booker out on the edge, since his offensive line is outmatched. UT’s job, like last week, is to stay at home. If the Vols don’t miss an assignment on the defensive side of the ball, there’s no reason why the Sycamores should score on Saturday.

UT has the superior athletes…again. If they avoid dumb mistakes and disrupt the timing of these delayed passes and handoffs, Bob Shoop’s defense has nothing to worry about.

Indiana State runs a multiple offense like Tennessee. You’ll see them line up in the shotgun or under center, but regardless, their focus has to be feeding Booker.

On that last play, Booker found the edge with ease. Tennessee didn’t do a very good job containing ball carriers in its last game. Saturday’s test provides a great opportunity to learn from Monday’s mistakes.

We’ll break down film previewing each game and reviewing every performance this season. Follow RTI writer Will Boling (@will_boling) for film previewing Tennessee’s opponents. We’ll be tweeting film review (@rockytopinsider) every week the Vols take the field.

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