KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee has plenty of stars on defense, but it took a serene sophomore safety making his first-career start to potentially save the Volunteers season.
Throughout training camp, coaches and teammates raved about Micah Abernathy’s consistency and potential.
It’s easy to see why.
The sophomore staved off Appalachian State’s historic upset-bid Thursday night, breaking up a pass in the end zone on 4th-down in overtime.
— Jesse Re Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) September 2, 2016
“I knew they liked misdirection plays,” Abernathy said.
“I just tried to stay at home and make a play.”
He did and Tennessee moved to 1-0 because of it.
With Jalen Reeves-Maybin ejected for targeting and All-American pass-rusher Derek Barnett stymied by the Mountaineers triple-option attack, Abernathy assume the role of headliner on Thursday night.
He finished with a team-high 7 solo tackles, adding a tackle for loss and the game-winning pass breakup. It was a ballyhooed performance for a underclassmen who just recently moved from nickel-back to safety this offseason.
“He made a lot of plays tonight,” said senior cornerback Cam Sutton, who sparked Tennessee’s comeback with a diving interception in the third quarter.
“He’s a team leader. A selfless guy. He’ll do anything you ask him. I’m really excited about Micah’s (growth as a player) and how he plays the rest of the season.”
Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and SECCountry.com