Behind Enemy Lines: Tennessee
**Note: This was a print-only story**
The Crimson White spoke to Daily Beacon sports editor David Cobb in Knoxville, Tenn., to get his take on Tennessee’s outlook this week, its transition to first-year coach Butch Jones and some of the team’s notable players in 2013.
Crimson White: Tennessee snapped a 19-game losing streak against ranked opponents with a win over South Carolina last week. What’s the team morale like now, heading into a game against the top-ranked team in the nation?
David Cobb: Morale is higher than it has been since 2009 for UT. Certainly, the players and coaches realize the challenge they face this week against Alabama. But the fact that this program finally has a marquee win to hang its hat on means everything, especially for the seniors after all the turmoil and gut-wrenching losses they’ve experienced in their time at UT.
CW: From an outsider’s perspective, players and fans seem to be responding better to Butch Jones than they ever did with Derek Dooley. Is that the case? If so, explain the impact he’s had on the program.
DC: Before ever coaching a game at UT, Jones had veteran players saying they would run through a brick wall for him. Ironically, the slogan Jones has patented is “brick by brick” in reference to rebuilding the UT program, and the first bricks he enlisted were UT’s upperclassmen. They are passionate about their head coach because their head coach is passionate about them as men, students and football players. The impact Jones is currently having in rejuvenating the fan base, recruiting and, as Saturday showed, winning, is impacting the program in an incalculable way.
CW: Tennessee is hailed for its great, veteran offensive line this year. In your opinion, how well do they matchup against Alabama’s front seven?
DC: After reviewing Alabama’s schedule to date, I think it’s fair to say that UT is bringing the best offensive line the Tide has faced this year to Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. Now, that does not necessarily mean that UT’s line matches up well with Alabama up front. Who in the nation does? The Vols struggled to run vertically in portions of the second half against South Carolina, and that should be a cause of concern for UT in preparation this week.
CW: Justin Worley hasn’t put up great stats for Tennessee this year. At this point in the season, is it clear whether the Volunteers are winning because of him or just in spite of him?
DC: Butch Jones asks his quarterback to be an “alpha male” in leading the offense. It’s been a learning process for the UT junior, but he’s come a long way since seeing the first action of his career in the waning moments of UT’s loss at Alabama in 2011. Worley is proving himself to be an efficient game manager and it would be unfair to label him as anything more or anything less.
CW: Alabama’s offense seems to have found its groove in the past three games. Give us a name on the Tennessee defense that can cause some problems for the Crimson Tide.
DC: Daniel McCullers. At 6-foot-8, 351 pounds, UT’s mammoth defensive tackle is playing the best football of his career in recent weeks. Teams have consistently struggled to run the ball up the middle because of his presence. And if UT is to continue that trend against Alabama, McCullers will be key.
Prediction: Alabama 37, Tennessee 21. Tennessee is playing with enough confidence and discipline to keep Saturday’s game closer than the oddsmakers predict, but it would be irresponsible to expect anything more than for the Vols to simply keep it respectable. The Crimson Tide is without a doubt the nation’s superior football team and UT has a long way to go before it could feasibly upset an Alabama team of this caliber.