You can learn a lot from talking to people with different interests and backgrounds than your own. That’s why we like to talk to those who know Georgia’s upcoming opponents about their deepest fears, greatest joys, and the dreams that they dare not even whisper aloud. Oh, and we ask them questions about football, too.
This week’s semi-willing participant is Terry Lambert of SB Nation’s excellent Tennessee site, Rocky Top Talk. Terry is knowledgeable about the Vols, and pretty realistic about the state of affairs in Knoxville. Enjoy.
MD: What kind of grade would you give quarterback Quinten Dormady so far?
Terry: It's hard to put it all on him though, honestly. This offense hasn't changed through three different offensive coordinators -- that tells me that Butch is running the offensive show. I think we kind of got spoiled over the past couple of years with how Josh Dobbs was able to cover up some issues. The offense really just isn't made for pocket passers. I think the staff really wanted Jarrett Guarantano to win the job, but the light hasn't come on for him yet. Dormady needs to get through his reads a little quicker and minimize the turnovers to take the next step forward.
MD: Who are Dormady's best weapons? If UT needs a clutch first down or late score, who's getting the ball?
Terry: The Tennessee offense begins and ends with John Kelly. You'll see plenty of him on Saturday. He's emerged as one of the top backs in the SEC (81 carries, 450 yards, 6 TDs) over the first four games and is virtually the only constant of the Volunteer offense. Tennessee's top receiver is Warner Robins native Marquez Callaway (with Jauan Jennings out), but the coaching staff oddly has been keeping him under wraps. If anyone watched the Tennessee-Georgia Tech game, you know all about Callaway. Those are really the only two game-changers Tennessee has. Without those two, the Vols are probably 1-3.
MD: Georgia's defensive front has been among the best in the SEC this season. How does the Volunteer offensive line match up?
Terry: The offensive line has been pretty good to this point. They wore down Georgia Tech and Florida, running the ball at will late in those games. They struggled last week against UMass, but were without senior center Jashon Robertson. He'll be back this week. Tennessee hasn't faced a front like this though. I think Georgia has an advantage on the edges. Tennessee gave up plenty of pressure to Florida, so that's something to watch for.
MD: At his presser earlier this week Butch Jones looked like a coach fighting for his job. What do you think is the mindset among Tennessee players? Do they seem distracted by the chatter? What are the odds we see the Vols come out on fire and fighting for Jones?
Terry: It's a really interesting spot for Tennessee. They're 3-1, which is where most thought they would be at this point. But the team just looked horrible last week in a gimme game against UMass. There's been rumors of a fight in the locker, which is where the Butch Jones rant stemmed from. I don't think we know how the team will respond. This could be a rally point or the place where everything begins to spiral downward.
We're all kind of waiting to see how they come out this week. It's a home game against a big rival, smokey grey uniforms, checkered Neyland, Peyton Manning is being honored at halftime.... It seems like they've emptied out the bag of tricks to try and steal a win. For whatever reason, Butch always saves up his best shot for Georgia. I have no idea why, but it wouldn't shock me to see him have the troops fired up for Saturday.
MD: It goes without saying that Tennessee will try to rush freshman quarterback Jake Fromm. But how does Bob Shoop defend the UGA rushing attack?
Terry: They loaded the box against Florida to defend the run and it worked. Tennessee had so many issues stopping the run -- from last year to this year against Georgia Tech -- I'm just not confident they can do it against Georgia. They stood tall against the Gators, but they're now down another linebacker in Cortez McDowell likely for the year. Bob Shoop is going to have to rely on some youth at linebacker, but he needs his big time blue-chippers on the defensive line to step up and disrupt.
MD: It wouldn't be a Q&A if I didn't ask you for a score prediction. Whadya got?
Terry: I keep going back and forth. Part of me says Tennessee just isn't very good. The other part of me thinks Butch is going to find a way to keep things close with his back against the wall. Just knowing what I know about this offense, I don't think Tennessee will be able to keep up. I'm going Georgia 27-Tennessee 13.