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Previewing Alabama vs. Tennessee: The Volunteer Offense

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While the Vol’s offense has been inconsistent at times, they could still provide the biggest challenge for Alabama’s defense to date. They’ll be led by their three-headed rushing attack with Dobbs, Hurd and Kamara.

Georgia v Tennessee Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Quarterback

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Texas A&M Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Starters:

11 Josh Dobbs (Sr.) - Dobbs is gifted with natural talent, but he doesn’t always use that talent to the best of his ability. He’s an inconsistent quarterback who allows his mechanics to get sloppy, which causes a negative effect on his accuracy. As most Alabama fans know, the 6’3” 210 pound senior from Alpharetta, Georgia can also be a threat with his legs, and when he uses the proper mechanics, he can light up a defense through the air as well. There is no denying that Tennessee’s offense is run through Dobbs.

2016 Season Stats: 105/180 (58.3%), 1,433 pass yards, 14 touchdowns, eight interceptions

82 carries, 463 rushing yards, five touchdowns

Running Back

NCAA Football: Florida at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Starters:

01 Jalen Hurd (Jr.) - Hurd has been a major contributor to the Tennessee offense since his freshman year in 2014. Despite only being halfway through his third year, he has 2,594 rushing yards (4.6 YPC average) and 19 touchdowns. Hurd currently ranks 8th on Tennessee’s all-time career rushing leaders, and he is currently only 484 rushing yards away from Travis Henry’s record of 3,078 yards. The offensive line has struggled to create running lanes for Hurd so far this year, so he hasn’t had the success that many had hoped after 1,277 yard, 12 touchdown season in 2015. Still, at 6’4” 240 pounds, Hurd is a physical specimen that should play a crucial role in any offensive success that Tennessee may have this weekend.

2016 Season Stats: 101 carries, 425 rushing yards, two touchdowns

Seven receptions, 82 receiving yards, two touchdowns

Names to Know:

06 Alvin Kamara (RS Jr.) - Crimson Tide fans should be quite familiar with Kamara considering he started his career at Alabama. Since arriving in Knoxville, he has been the perfect lightning to Hurd’s thunder, and some people say that Kamara is the better overall running back. While that is debatable, few will argue that Alabama’s defense needs to be ready to see a heavy dose of both Kamara and Hurd. At 5’10” 215, the former four-star prospect from Norcross, Georgia, features a smaller frame than Hurd, but he is still is an effective runner who is also heavily used in the passing game as a receiver out of the backfield. Kamara currently leads the Tennessee offense in receptions with 20.

2016 Season Stats: 56 carries, 304 rushing yards, two touchdowns

20 receptions, 253 receiving yards, three touchdowns

04 John Kelly (So.) - With both Hurd and Kamara in front of Kelly, he hasn’t had that many opportunities to show what he can do. He has been impressive with the limited opportunities he has been given, however. With Hurd out this past weekend due to injury, Kelly was given 13 carries which he turned into 89 rushing yards (6.8 YPC) with one rushing touchdown. If you add in his one reception for 12 yards, Kelly turned in over a 100 yards of offense against a middle of the road Texas A&M defense. The 5’9” 212 pound sophomore should continue to see some snaps even with Hurd returning.

2016 Season Stats: 16 carries, 107 rushing yards, two touchdowns

Two receptions, 19 receiving yards

Wide Receiver

NCAA Football: Ohio at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Starters:

03 Josh Malone (Jr.) - Out of all of Tennessee’s receivers, Malone has the best combination of production and experience. The former four-star from Gallatin, Tennessee has played in 30 games for Tennessee -- including 25 starts -- dating back to his freshman year in 2014. He is on pace to shatter his old season highs in receptions (31) and receiving yardage (405). Malone is Tennessee’s leader in receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns. He is currently listed at 6’3” 200 pounds.

2016 Season Stats: 17 receptions, 341 receiving yards, five touchdowns

15 Jauan Jennings (So.) - Jennings originally came to Tennessee as a four-star, dual-threat quarterback from Murfreeboro, Tennessee. He ending up switching to wide receiver where he has slowly become a force in Tennessee’s offense. Over the course of the last three games, the 6’3” 205 pound receiver has earned 250 of his 281 receiving yards on just 11 receptions -- good for 22.7 yards per catch. When looking at the Volunteer’s receivers, the first thing that stands out is their sheer size— evidenced by the top two targets, Jennings and Malone, each standing over 6’3”.

2016 Season Stats: 17 receptions, 281 receiving yards, three touchdowns

25 Josh Smith (RS Jr.) - Smith wasn’t a highly recruited guy coming out of high school, but he immediately made his presence known from the time he walked onto Tennessee’s campus in 2013. Over the course of the last four years, Smith has played in 27 games -- with 15 starts -- but he has seen a dip in production with the emergence of Jennings and Preston Williams. Still, the former three-star recruit has come up big in some critical moments which includes being on the receiving end of Dobbs’ only passing touchdown in last year’s 19-14 loss to the Crimson Tide.

2016 Season Stats: Seven receptions, 42 receiving yards

Names to Know:

07 Preston Williams (So.) - At 6’4” 209, Williams is currently Tennessee’s biggest receiver. The former four-star, Rivals 100 receiver from Hampton, Georgia hasn’t made the impact that many thought he would, but he still has the raw talent to explode at any moment. Expect to see him in a rotational role this Saturday against the Crimson Tide.

2016 Season Stats: Nine receptions, 89 receiving yards

10 Tyler Byrd (Fr.) - Byrd has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise at wide receiver for Tennessee this year. Originally, Byrd was projected to come in and compete immediately for a role at cornerback, but he has since switched to receiver and done a nice job. His biggest game so far came this past Saturday against Texas A&M where he finished with three receptions for 60 yards -- including a long of 43. At 6’0” 195 pounds, Byrd doesn’t possess the size that some of the other receivers on the roster do, but he is a lot more effective as an underneath receiver that can turn short receptions into long gains.

2016 Season Stats: Nine receptions, 119 receiving yards

Tight End

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Starters:

82 Ethan Wolf (Jr.) - The most recent snap that Wolf was a part of was one that ended Tennessee’s perfect season. On the first play of double-overtime, Dobbs targeted Wolf on a seam route in an attempt to tie the game. That pass was ultimately picked off by A&M defensive back Armani Watts. It was a tough loss for the Vols, but that play was not on Wolf. It was a window that Dobbs shouldn’t have thrown in. At 6’6” 245, Wolf has solid size for the position. During his career, he has 54 receptions for 594 yards and three touchdowns during the past two and a half season.

2016 Season Stats: Eight receptions, 81 receiving yards, one touchdown

Names to Know:

18 Jason Croom (RS Sr.) - Croom has carved out a nice role as Tennessee’s backup tight end. He has managed to get playing time in 24 career games while also putting up 11 starts. At 6’5” 246, the former four-star wide receiver is a lot more of a receiving threat than he is as an inline blocker.

2016 Season Stats: Eight receptions, 119 receiving yards

Offensive Line

Outback Bowl - Northwestern v Tennessee Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

63 Brett Kendrick (RS Jr.) - Kendrick started the first two games of the season at right tackle, but switched to left tackle after Drew Richmond struggled to protect Joshua Dobb’s blindside. Kendrick is listed at 6’6” 318, and, while he has been more serviceable than Richmond, he could struggle against Alabama’s pass rush on Saturday.

2016 Season Stats: Four starts (left tackle), two starts (right tackle)

75 Jashon Robertson (Jr.) - Robertson has been the only player along Tennessee’s offensive line that has started all six games at the same position. The reason for that is because he has been Tennessee’s most consistent offensive lineman this season, and why mess with a good thing? Robertson was named First Team All-SEC according to Athlon’s Sports heading into the season after making the Freshman All-SEC team following his freshman year in 2014. At 6’3” 305, Robertson is a balanced player who could end up playing on Sundays.

2016 Season Stats: Six starts (left guard)

71 Dylan Wiesman (Sr.) - Tennessee was the only SEC school to offer Wiesman a scholarship when he was coming out of high school, but I’m sure a lot of other schools wish they would have. Wiesman started every game for the Vols last season with 12 starts coming at right guard and one at left guard. Heading into this season, he was named to the Outland Trophy watchlist which is given to college football’s best interior lineman. The 6’4” 310 pound lineman from Cincinnati, Ohio started the first two games at right guard before sliding over to center.

2016 Season Stats: Four starts (center), two starts (right guard)

66 Jack Jones (So.) - When the coaches decided to move Wiesman to center, it was with the thought that Jones could help provide a boost to the interior of the offensive line at right guard. The former four-star recruit has helped improve the offensive line, but it hasn’t come without some bumps along the way. Jones is still young and learning as he goes along, but there is little doubt that he is eventually going to become a very good player for the Vols. With that said, having to deal with Alabama’s defensive front could prove to be an issue, so I’m sure offensive coordinator Mike DeBord is going to try to get Dobbs outside of the pocket. Jones is listed at 6’4” 307 pounds.

2016 Season Stats: Four starts (right guard)

76 Chance Hall (So.) - Getting Hall back from a knee injury provided a significant boost to the offensive line. As a true freshman in 2015, Hall was a consensus Freshman All-American, and it’s already pretty clear that he is going to be Tennessee’s best offensive lineman moving forward. At 6’4 318, Hall has the size to go along with his extremely strong base. He still needs work as a pass protector, but that will come in due time.

2016 Season Stats: Three starts (right tackle)

How Will Tennessee’s Offense Attack Alabama’s Defense?

The last two years have been a tale of two very different ballgames between Alabama and Tennessee. In 2014, Josh Dobbs was able to cause the Alabama defense trouble by throwing for close to 200 yards with two touchdowns while adding 75 yards on the ground. The Tide won the game by two scores, but it was clear that the Alabama defense had trouble containing Dobbs.

Fast forward to last year’s game in Tuscaloosa, and it was low-scoring slug fest that ended with the five point victory for the Tide (19-14 final). During that contest, Dobbs was held to only 19 rushing yards on 16 carries and only 190 yards total.

One thing still remains true for the Volunteer’s offense. They still love to spread out opposing defenses, but they aren’t your typical spread offense. Even though they like to spread things out, Mike DeBord still likes to feature a smashmouth, inside-zone run game that wears out opposing defenses. At times in the past, Alabama has struggled against this type of offense, but the Tide’s added speed on defense -- while still maintaining their physical approach -- should allow them to adjust nicely to what Tennessee may throw at them come Saturday.

Dobbs is currently tied for having thrown the second most interceptions in college football with eight. Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick is fresh off a game in which he had three interceptions with one returned for a touchdown. It’s almost certain that Dobbs will try to avoid throwing at Fitzpatrick, but Marlon Humphrey -- while he has struggled with contesting passes at times despite being in good position -- is still an elite talent.

Expect the Vols to go to Jalen Hurd early and often in the run game while also trying to get Dobbs outside of the pocket to try to alleviate some of the pressure from Alabama’s front seven.