Scouting a season-opening opponent is never easy considering the changes that every college football team’s roster will undoubtedly undergo during each offseason. The transfer portal is making the preseason scouting even more difficult. That’s no different for Tennessee Football.
The Vols will face the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday in Nashville. UVA will be led by quarterback Tony Muskett, who transferred from Monmouth. Muskett clearly felt his play was worthy of a better football program – and likely a better NIL deal – than Monmouth could provide. He certainly had some leverage. Muskett was named to the First Team All Big-South Conference team twice, is Monmouth’s all-time leader in pass efficiency and was fifth in the voting for the Jerry Rice Award, which is presented to the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision, long called Div.-II. In other words, he was one of the best in a lower division of college football. It remains to be seen just how good Muskett can be now that he’s playing in the highest level of the sport.
“Been a really good decision-maker,” Tennessee Football coach Josh Heupel said when asked about Muskett. “Thrown for a bunch of yards. Has good pocket awareness, him being in Week 1, year one within their system. One of the new things that they do to try to put him in a position, we’ll find out on game day, but their guys have played really good football at a high level and been good decision-makers. So for us, we gotta do a great job of handling the run game. We gotta apply pressure and do pressure package, but it can also just be a forward inside of pocket.”
Virginia’s defense has also benefitted from transfers, so it remains to be seen how stout the Cavs will be when they don’t have the ball. Virginia ranked 44th in the nation in total defense last season with 357 yards yielded per game. The Cavs return most all of their production from their defensive line last season and is considered well stocked in the secondary. However, they lose one of their better players, linebacker Nick Jackson and their top two cornerbacks.
“They do have some new transfers, in particular on the back end,” Heupel said. “They have experience in their front seven. They’re doing a good job against the run. We gotta do a really good job of being dialed into our protections, our run schemes, make sure we’re targeting right people. Questions brought up earlier. do our assignments. Handle our assignments at a really high level. Be good.”
Unless Virginia’s defense is much improved with more experience and incoming transfers, Tennessee Football won’t have to be much more than just “good” to have a successful day against the Cavs.