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How ESPN is Picking the Position Groups Between Tennessee and Alabama

Tennessee Alabama
Tennessee and quarterback Hendon Hooker will host Alabama this weekend. Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics.

In advance of No. 6 Tennessee’s game against No. 3 Alabama this weekend, ESPN’s Thinking Out Loud hosts Spencer Hall and Richard Johnson broke down some of the position battles in the upcoming contest.

The two hosts went back and forth discussing several aspects of the game, both agreeing and disagreeing on certain spots.

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Here’s how the interaction and selections broke down:

Special Teams:

  • Spencer: Alabama
  • Richard: Tennessee

While the two hosts were split here, the reasoning between the two mainly revolved around Alabama’s ability, or lack of ability, on special teams. It was probably considered originally despite not being talked about on air, but Tennessee’s special teams against LSU looked tremendous. The Vols recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff and Chase McGrath went 4-5 of his field goal attempts including makes from 32 (x2), 35, and 38. In addition, Tennessee’s Dee Williams also had a 58-yard punt return on his first play of the season against the Tigers.

Tennessee D-Line vs Alabama O-Line:

  • Spencer: Tennessee’s Defensive Line
  • Richard: Tennessee’s Defensive Line

It’s easy to see why the hosts were in unison on this one. Tennessee’s defensive line has been a disruptive force this season. The Vols have found more and more success rushing the passer as the season has gone on with freshman players such as Joshua Josephs stepping up in critical spots. The line has also been impressive at stopping the run as well, limiting LSU’s running back room to just 17 total yards this past Saturday.

Tennessee O-Line vs Alabama D-Line:

  • Spencer: Alabama’s Defensive Line
  • Richard: Alabama’s Defensive Line

“I’m going to take Alabama’s defensive line here, obviously because of what we talked about earlier in the show with all the pressure that they were able to generate against Texas A&M,” Johnson said. “Now, on the other hand, I’m pretty curious about what pressure would do to Hendon Hooker and Tennessee’s offense, but I’m also interested in kind of the ways that Tennessee has been able to scheme around that. We talked about that a couple of weeks ago when they beat Florida.”

Tennessee Skill Players vs Alabama Secondary:

  • Spencer: Tennessee’s Skill Players
  • Richard: Tennessee’s Skill Players

“One of the things Tennessee likes to do, and one of the things that Alabama’s defense likes to do, they love to play man,” Hall said. “And one of the things that you have to do is defend one-on-one there. Tennessee will challenge you down the field and they will win more times than they lose here, that’s why I’m taking Tennessee’s skill players.”

Hendon Hooker vs Bryce Young:

  • Spencer: Hendon Hooker
  • Richard: Bryce Young

“That’s an absolute value pick,” Hall said after Johnson picked Young. “Nine out of ten times you would take Bryce Young. However, in context, in 2022, I am taking Hendon Hooker because Bryce Young, still perhaps a bit banged up after that injury. Additionally, I feel like in this system, to me this year, I feel like if I said which quarterback has been more comfortable in the pocket and operating this offense, shockingly, it’s Hendon Hooker.”

Check out the full clip with Spencer Hall and Richard Johnson here.

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