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Justin Worley has stepped in as a first-year starter at quarterback for Tennessee this year and he has shown no quit.
At 6-foot-4, 222 pounds, Worley has the tall pocket-passer body and underrated athleticism. He moves around in the pocket well, and does a good job of extending the play. He doesn't throw well when moving to his left, but when moving to his right, he is much more accurate. He struggles when he attacks the line of scrimmage and tends to drop his arm angle and let balls sail on him at that point. On the season, Worley has really struggled converting on third down at only 41.67 percent. Worley has also thrown six interceptions in the five games he has played, so he has to do a better job of taking care of the football. Like most quarterbacks, pressure in his face seems to be the best way to disrupt the junior signal caller.
Tennessee has a couple of players to watch at the running back position. Senior Rajion Neal is averaging over 93 yards per contest and 5.85 yards per carry.
Neal is slashing style running back that shows a tendency to be a little indecisive at times. He possesses solid vision, and does a good job of running to daylight. Neal has also gotten involved in the passing game with nine receptions on the season. Marlin Lane is the second-leading rusher for the Volunteers and he is averaging 6.22 yards per carry this season. Lane has the ability to hit the big play at any time, and he, too, is involved in the passing game with six catches on the season. Both running backs have the ability to split out and do damage, but neither is considered to be the physical type that can wear a defense down.
This is a young group that is also big and talented. The top five receivers for Tennessee are made up of three freshman and two sophomores. Sophomore Pig Howard, at 5-foot-8, leads the team in receiving yards with 148 on the season, and he has also been the team's best deep threat through the first part of the season.
Howard is a speedster that has the ability to stretch the field at any moment. Josh Smith, Marquez North, and Jason Croom are the three freshmen that Tennessee relies on in the passing game. Smith has good size and speed, and is averaging over 15 yards per catch. North was a blue chip prospect coming out of high school in the 2013 class, and at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he looks like an SEC veteran already. Norcross native Jason Croom is Tennessee's biggest receiver at 6-foot-5, 223 pounds. Croom has been a dominant blocker at times on the perimeter and has the ability to bring in the tough catch. Keep an eye on tight end Brandon Downs. He only has seven receptions on the season but two have gone for touchdowns.
A year ago this group was one of the best in the country.
That is still the case in 2013 as the Volunteers return four seniors and a junior up front. The two offensive tackles lead the group. Antonio Richardson mans the left tackle spot while Ja'Wuan James is at right tackle. Both are capable of being left one-on-one with elite pass rushers, and both will play on Sundays. On the interior, Alex Bullard and Zach Fulton are a couple of veteran guards. Bullard is solid at the point of attack as a run blocker, but has struggled at times in pass protection. Fulton appears to be the weaker of the two in the run game, but is very good in pass protection. Center James Stone may be one of the best in the country, as he possessed excellent athleticism and great lower body strength.
• 1st Down - Tennessee has gone with the run 62% of the time on first down in 2013.
• 2nd Down and long (7 or more yards) - This is a pass heavy down with the Vols going to the air 59% of the time.
• Second down and medium (4 to 6 yards) - This is a slightly run heavy down with Tennessee using the run game 54% of the time.
• Second down and short (less than 4 yards) - Make no mistake, Tennessee will take shots down field in this situation but it is still a down and distance where the run is heavily favored (68%).
• Third down and long - The Vols have gone to the air 78% of the time thus far in 2013.
• Third down and medium - Third and medium is a lot like third and long for Tennessee as the passing game has been used 74% of the time on this down and distance.
• Third down and short - This is a down and distance where Tennessee heavily relies on the run (68%).
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