KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Missouri’s offensive firepower has Tennessee coach Butch Jones concerned.
The Tigers efficiency, however, was the key to their 26-17 victory over Vanderbilt last Saturday.
Quarterback Drew Lock, a strong-armed sophomore, was 22-of-37 passing for 294 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against a stout Commodores defense.
The Vols (7-3, 3-3 SEC) play host to Missouri (3-7 1-5) at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Neyland Stadium (TV: CBS).
A conversation with Columbia Daily Tribune beat writer Blake Toppmeyer helped create this comparison of the position groups:
Missouri: Drew Lock has shown great ability, but he’s been somewhat inconsistent. Lock is coming off maybe the best performance of his career, a 22-of-37 outing that went for 294 yards and 2 TDs versus Vanderbilt.
Tennessee: Dobbs produced five TDs in the Vols’ 49-36 win over Kentucky last week and shows no signs of slowing down. Dobbs has 21 TD passes and 12 interceptions this season and leads the team with 470 yards rushing.
Missouri: Damarea Crockett (5-11, 220) is a north-south style of runner who has exceeded exceptions with more than 1,000 yards as a true freshman. Ish Witter has been a consistent back, solid all around.
Tennessee: Alvin Kamara made a successful return after missing two games with an unspecified knee injury. Kamara had 128 yards rushing and 2 TDs even with a knee brace. John Kelly continued to churn out yardage with 94 yards on 16 carries.
Missouri: J’Mon Moore (6-3, 205) is the Tigers’ top receiver coming off a strong performance against Vanderbilt. An explosive downfield threat who can make yards after the catch. Dimetrios Mason has great athleticism and versatility and will line up in the backfield at times. Johnathan Johnson is another speed player with the ability to get vertical.
Tennessee: Josh Malone is back on track, and last week he had four catches for 92 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Byrd has a season-long 44-yard grab and continues to emerge in the slot. Jauan Jennings caught only one of four targets and looks to have lost focus.
Missouri: The line has had great continuity with six players handling the five spots throughout the season. The line has improved from a season ago, allowing the fewest sacks (10) in the SEC. Junior college transfer Tyler Howell has done a solid job at left tackle and right tackle Paul Adams has also enjoyed a strong season.
Tennessee: The Vols have started six different offensive lines, and that number could grow to seven depending on whether senior Dylan Wiesman can play after suffering what appeared to be an ankle injury against Kentucky.
Missouri: Junior end Charles Harris has eight sacks this season and is a projected first-round pick. The Tigers used four defensive ends across the front in pass situations against Vanderbilt and came up with four sacks. A.J. Logan is a big presence at 6-2, 325.
Tennessee: Ends Derek Barnett and Corey Vereen have combined for 16 sacks, most by any duo in the SEC. The interior line is the question mark, though it appears Kendal Vickers could get some help from junior college transfer Jonathan Kongbo this week.
Missouri: This unit has been hit hard by injuries, leading to reps being split at middle linebacker between Cale Garrett and Eric Beisel. Strong side backer Donavin Newsom is the top linebacker. At the weak side, there’s more rotation.
Tennessee: Sophomore Darrin Kirkland Jr. has not looked like himself since returning from injury, failing to make any impact plays. The weak side position has likewise struggled, whether that has been Colton Jumper or Elliott Berry.
Missouri: The Tigers lead the league in interceptions, and cornerback Aarion Penton has four of them including a pick-six last week against Vanderbilt. Cornerback John Gibson has been one of the most improved players in the secondary. It’s been a revolving door among safeties.
Tennessee: The Vols look to start their ninth different secondary combination in freshman Nigel Warrior gets the start beside Micah Abernathy as expected. Getting cornerback Cam Sutton back has been a boost, but UT needs to make more plays on the back end.
Missouri: The Tigers rank 126th of 128 in field goal percentage and lead the nation with five missed extra points, so they don’t know who will handle place-kicking duties. Punter Corey Fatony has been steady at this position, so there are no issues there. Johnathan Johnson is a quick and shifty punt returner and Alex Ross is the primary kick return man.
Tennessee: The Vols need to answer some questions on the kick and punt return units, but their specialists have been strong. Kicker Aaron Medley has made 8 of 11 field goals and all 44 extra-point kicks. Punter Trevor Daniel is averaging 44.8 per kick with 23 dropped inside opponents’ 20-yard line.