Coming off a close loss to top-ranked Florida last weekend, Tennessee will kick off its first night game of the season against the Ohio Bobcats on Saturday.
This will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools and Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker can’t wait to get on the field.
“It’s an exciting matchup,” Walker said. “We’re real excited to be able to come back home this week.”
Despite having the 104th-ranked passing offense in the country, UT head coach Lane Kiffin continues to defend starting quarterback Jonathan Crompton. Kiffin is looking for better decisions from his signal-caller as well as having the wide receivers improve on little details in practice, which he hopes translates to better production in games.
“I look for us to have a much better week in the passing game,” Kiffin said.
The Volunteer receiving corps will be without leading receiver Quintin Hancock, who suffered a broken jaw during the Florida game and will be out an undisclosed amount of time. Kiffin expects some of the freshman receivers to step up and be ready to play significant minutes on Saturday in Hancock’s place.
Kiffin also hopes that wide receiver Brandon Warren can make an impact as he has only made one catch in the past two games. Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore also figure to see an increase in their roles as the two have gone through their second full week of practice since returning from preseason injuries.
Guard Vladimir Richards will be out due to a lingering ankle injury. Jarrod Shaw will slide inside to Richards’ left guard position, and Aaron Douglas will get his first career start at right tackle.
Tailback Montario Hardesty leads the Vols’ rushing attack, averaging 115 yards per game on the ground to go along with his team-high three touchdowns on the season. Kiffin said Hardesty was “a little banged up” after Wednesday’s practice with a shoulder injury, but it shouldn’t affect his status for Saturday.
The Vols rank fifth in the nation in total defense after holding the Gator offense to 323 yards and 23 points. It was the first time Florida has been held under 30 points in an SEC contest since playing at LSU in 2007.
Walker already has four sacks on the season, surpassing his total of three from the entire 2008 campaign. The junior believes the Vols’ effort was good against the Gators, and the team is “really close to being a really good team.”
“It definitely gave us a big confidence boost to go down to the Swamp and play with the No. 1 team in the country,” Walker said.
Kiffin said freshman safety Janzen Jackson had his best day as a Vol against the Gators, and UT’s head coach wasn’t shy when asked about Jackson’s future.
“(Jackson) is going to be an All-American player someday,” Kiffin said, “There are some things he actually does better than Eric (Berry).”
Linebacker LaMarcus Thompson, the team’s fourth-leading tackler, has been nursing an injured back and freshman Greg King is expected to start in his place if he is unable to go on Saturday.