The Tennessee Volunteers will catch a small break in their grueling schedule this week. A much welcomed break after facing two consecutive top 25 opponents on the road, and coming up with losses in both contests.
Tennessee will host South Alabama for the first meeting between either school Saturday, Sept. 28 in Neyland Stadium, with kickoff slated for 12:21 p.m. on the SEC Network.
This game will come just prior to the Vols next three consecutive game stretch against currently top-13 opponents. Luckily for Tennessee two of those will be at home, Georgia and South Carolina, but they will still have to travel to Alabama after their three game home stand.
Coach Butch Jones said the preparation in the next coming weeks will say a lot about his team and their progression thus far.
“Moving forward we will find out a lot more about our football team, our competitive character, our leadership,” Jones said.
He’s not willing to disregard this week’s opponent in South Alabama to look ahead to the coming three game stretch.
“You have South Alabama coming in here not feeling sorry for us,” Jones said. “Defensively they’re athletic, physical, very aggressive, bring a lot of pressure and they play very good team defense. Very well-coached football team.”
Lost in Saturday’s game against Florida was another blow to the quarterback situation for Tennessee. Starter against the Gators, Nathan Peterman, suffered a broken hand during the game and had surgery on it early Monday morning. The Volunteers are now left with Justin Worley, who is listed as the starter again against South Alabama, and the two true freshmen Riley Ferguson and Joshua Dobbs. Jones said he plans to get the two freshman an ample amount of snaps this week, and hinted they would most likely play Saturday.
“We have to do a great job of getting them ready to play mentally and then physically as well,” Jones said. “We will try to simulate as many game like conditions as possible but as we all know you can’t simulate it until there are people in the stands and it is for real.”
The Volunteers quarterback situation hasn’t been the best this year. After four weeks the Vols passing offense ranks 114th in the nation. That leaves them behind Navy who runs the old-school triple option offense, was well as their opponents this week South Alabama.
Against Florida Saturday both Peterman and Worley were responsible for five of the six turnovers Tennessee had all game, including two interceptions thrown by each quarterback, and a Peterman fumble in the first quarter.
“Our quarterbacks can’t make catastrophic mistakes,” Jones said. “They have to eliminate the catastrophic plays.”
Jones is hoping Saturday will be a confidence building game for his team before they enter the second leg of their grueling early season stretch.