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Behind Enemy Lines: The Daily Beacon’s Blake Von Hagen previews Alabama vs Tennessee

CW/ Blake VonHagen

CW/ Blake VonHagen

Ben Stansell, Assistants Sports Editor

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No. 1 Alabama had its closest game of the year last week against Missouri, while Tennessee had its biggest win of the season with a convincing win over then-No. 21 Auburn. Ben Stansell talked with Blake Von Hagen, the Daily Beacon’s sports editor, for a behind-the-scenes look at Tennessee.

Q: Tennessee’s record may not reflect it, but it seems like the Volunteers have improved as the season has progressed. Where specifically has Tennessee improved?

A: After the Florida game, Jeremy Pruitt said his team needed to focus on fundamentals. That is where the team has shown the most improvement. The simple things, such as tackling and catching passes, has improved every week since then. Tennessee is also playing with more confidence, as younger players are stepping into their roles on the team.

Q: What changes has Jeremy Pruitt made to the program? I know you don’t cover Alabama, but have you noticed any similarities between the Crimson Tide and the way Pruitt runs his new program?

A: Pruitt has instilled a toughness to the team. Almost every player mentions the attitude of the coaching staff when they meet with the media. The media policies are also similar, as Pruitt keeps most freshman away from the media. Pruitt’s style is similar to Saban’s. He tries to focus on consistency, rather than emotional swings.

Q: It’s Jarrett Guarantano’s second year as a starter, what improvements has he made?

A: Guarantano has shown consistency this season. There have only been a handful of passes that he has missed on this season, given time from the offensive line. He mentioned the continuity he has with his wide receivers after the Auburn game. Guarantano’s ability to throw the deep ball has vastly improved since last season.

Q: Alabama’s offense has seemed nearly unstoppable this season. What do you think Pruitt’s game plan will be to try to slow it down?

A: Pruitt will likely come out with an aggressive game plan. He blitzed against Auburn early and often, resulting in several turnovers and mistakes by quarterback Jarrett Stidham. The Tennessee secondary is full of youth, so blitzes alleviate some pressure in that sense. I would expect the box to be stacked by the Vols’ defensive line in order to slow down a strong Alabama running game.

Q: What are the strengths of Tennessee’s team?

A: The wide receiver group has shown to be Tennessee’s strength over the last few games. From Jauan Jennings to Marquez Callaway, the Vols have talent all over the field in the passing game. As long as the offensive line can provide time for Guarantano, which has been a huge if so far, it is certainly a strength for Tennessee. The Vols also excel in the kicking game, as Joe Doyle is one of the SEC leaders in punting, and Brent Cimaglia has only missed one field goal this season.

Q: How much optimism has Tennessee’s win against Auburn injected into the program?

A: The win over Auburn completely changed the mood around the football program. For Pruitt, it was the result of hard work throughout fall camp and the first five games of the season. The energy that existed going into the Florida game is back after the first SEC win in 11 games for Tennessee.

 Q: What would it take for the Volunteers to upset Alabama?

A: It would take a miracle. Outside of a miracle, some tangible things would be more than three turnovers from Alabama, a Tennessee scoring play on special teams, a near-perfect day from Guarantano and big plays made by the Vols’ offense. A few three-and-outs from Alabama would certainly have to come into play as well. Tennessee needs to keep it low-scoring to have a shot. Once the crowd is out of the game, it will be tough for the Vols to recover.

Q: What is your score prediction and how did you formulate it?

A: I have Alabama winning 48-10. The Crimson Tide has been exceptional in the first half this season, covering the first half spread in every game. Tennessee has had trouble getting off to fast starts, and that is a recipe for disaster against this Alabama team.

 

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Behind Enemy Lines: The Daily Beacon’s Blake Von Hagen previews Alabama vs Tennessee