Tennessee Vols Football: 5 Things To Look For In Week 2 Vs Oregon
The Oregon Ducks bring their high flying offense and their high fallutin' Nike uniforms to Neyland Stadium this week for a road game against the young Tennessee Volunteers.
This is the first in a long line of tough games for the young Vols which includes Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina.
The Vols are twelve point underdogs against the Ducks.
Most Vol fans have resigned themselves to the Vols losing this one, but are hoping for a surprise from first year head coach Derek Dooley or, at least, a strong effort from the Vol fans that will remind them of last year's down to the wire Alabama game.
Here are 5 things to watch for on Saturday.
Wilcox, a former Oregon player, before becoming the defensive genius behind the Boise State Broncos, is charged with slowing down an offense that put 72 points up against New Mexico last week.
Wilcox has seen the Ducks before when he was at Boise and his schemes threw the Oregon offense for a loop.
The question is, can he do it with this thin Volunteer defense against this amped up version of the Duck offense?
Vols Freshmen Phenoms at Wide Receiver
The brightest spot for the Volunteers heading into the season appeared to be the leadership and strong hands of seniors Gerald Jones (WR), Denarius Moore (WR), and Luke Stocker on offense.
The Vols have a brand new offensive line, quarterback, and running back, but the receivers were supposed to be the safety valve for QB Matt Simms.
That was before last week's leading receiver Gerald Jones went down with a hand injury that will keep him out of the lineup for at least two weeks. Moore and Stocker are both more likely but both have each struggled with injuries this week.
Look to see a lot of freshmen phenoms Justin Hunter and Da' Rick Rogers. For the Vols to have any chance, the young receivers have to step up to the national stage for their first big game in Neyland.
The Vols' Running Game
If the Vols want to stay in the game against the fast strike Ducks offense, they must have a great day from their running backs in order to slow down the pace of the game.
If Tennessee can keep the score low and the pace slow they just might have a chance to win in the fourth quarter. That won't be easy to do.
Last week, against a weaker UT-Martin, Tennessee backs Tauren Poole and David Oku looked all world, finding holes for big gains all over the field. This week the young offensive line responsible for making those holes will face it's first real test against a strong FCS level defensive line.
Poole and Oku need a lot of running space in order for the Vols to have a chance in this one.
The Neyland Effect
A former player for a rival SEC school recently commented, "Neyland Stadium was the hardest place I ever played a game. The stadium is built so close to the field that it feels like those fans are just sitting on top of you. Sometimes, you aren't sure you even want to win there."
There are few things as loud as listening to the rowdies at Neyland when their Volunteers run onto the field. If there ever was a game that the fans need to be heard, this is it.
With all respect to the PAC-10, there is no venue in the league to compare to the "life is orange" vibe of 100,000 people crammed into the tight quarters of Neyland.
The Vols need their fans to be loud and rattle the nerves of Oregon sophomore Darron Thomas in his first start on the road. The long plane ride and the Tennessee crowd on game day have shocked PAC-10 teams before.
Watch for the Vol fans to be at their rowdy best on Saturday.
Derek Dooley And The Vols' Team Chemistry
The Vols and their fans have had a good ol' fashioned love-fest with new head coach Derek Dooley in his first 8 months on the job. Last week's well executed UT-Martin game, paired with let downs at other SEC schools like Mississippi, raised the hopes of Volunteer fans that this might not be the titanic year they expected.
This week, things will get hairy for the first time on Rocky Top. Even if the Vols' play well, their chances against the Ducks are dim. They will likely have to play from behind and show a lot of poise in order to stay in the game. How will the players, shell-shocked by the adjustment of three coaching staffs in three years, react emotionally the first time the Ducks strike fast and score? What will the players do if they lose this one?
Derek Dooley will have to be part psychologist this week in order to keep his players' heads in the game. Last week, Dooley told the media he would find out what his team was like when things "got thick".
Look for things to be "thick" this week on Rocky Top and watch to see how Dooley and his team react to each other when it happens.
(Johnny Lewis is a Tennessee Volunteers Featured Columnist for the Bleacher Report. Read his other articles at www.kentuckyvols.com and follow him on Twitter @kyvolunteer for more talk about the Vols.)