Despite talent on the level of the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Texas A&M Aggies are 4-2. However, Jimbo Fisher’s team is loaded with talent, and Tennessee Football will have to play above its head to make sure it wins on Saturday. Here are the five key players the Vols need to watch out for if they are to improve to 5-1 on the year.
5. Demani Richardson, DB
A preseason All-SEC safety, Demani Richardson had a slow start to the year. However, last Saturday against Alabama, he forced a key fumble, and right now he’s third on the team in tackles with 20. Given the questions surrounding the Vols in the passing game, look for Richardson to try to make multiple big plays where possible.
4. Max Johnson, QB
Honestly, Max Johnson looks like an NFL quarterback with his accuracy and awareness. His only issue right now is being able to get rid of the ball quickly, so the key for UT is to get a pass rush, which they have done pretty well all year. Still, that revolves around slowing down Johnson, so they have to be ready for what he can do at all times.
3. Ainias Smith, WR, RS
Texas A&M’s one preseason first team All-SEC player across the board, Ainias Smith leads the team in receiving with 26 catches for 431 yards. Although he has no touchdowns while Evan Stewart, who has 27 catches for 403 yards, has four, Smith is the bigger threat to Tennessee Football. Smith is also averaging 17.5 yards a punt return with one touchdown on 15 returns, so he’s a threat in numerous ways.
2. Edgerrin Cooper, LB
Everything about Texas A&M’s success starts with their run defense, and Edgerrin Cooper is a huge part of that. The linebacker leads the team in total tackles with 41, solo tackles with 21, tackles for a loss with 12 and sacks with six. He has also forced and recovered a fumble. Simply put, he’s been wreaking havoc in the backfield and having a historic year, so he’s a huge threat.
1. Walter Nolen, DL
A defensive tackle from Knoxville leads the way for the Aggies. Tennessee Football thought it had Walter Nolen committed out of high school, and now Nolen is dominating up front for A&M with four sacks, seven and a half tackles for a loss, a pass deflection and 22 tackles, 11 of which were solo. Given UT’s success in the ground game, it all comes down to Nolen vs. Cooper Mays in this game.