Freshmen DTs forced to grow up in a hurry for Vols with UGA up next

Featuring an inconsistent quarterback, Georgia will likely rely on the ground game against Tennessee.
Randy Sartin/Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee’s defense fell apart in the second half against Arkansas, as the Razorbacks’ offensive line had its way with front seven of the Vols. Will anything be different this weekend against Georgia, or will it just be more of the same? 

One positive sign for the Volunteers defense has been the play of freshman defensive tackle Shy Tuttle. If fellow freshman Kahlil McKenzie develops with continued snaps on the field, the Vols may just have the makings of an incredible defensive interior. 

Head coach Butch Jones has liked what he’s seen from the duo after only five games on the roster. 

"I thought Shy played the best game he’s played all year. When you see 300-plus pounds, I thought his effort was outstanding," Jones said. "He was able to win some one-on-one matchups in the pass protection area against the offensive linemen. 

"I thought Kahlil did some very good things of holding his gap and being active. When we watched the film, we were very, very encouraged with those two individuals. They did a very, very good job."

With Georgia and their stable of backs next on the schedule, both freshmen are likely in for the challenge of their young football lives. 

The Bulldogs struggled to move the ball against Alabama in the first half but eventually wore down the Tide’s defense with some nice gains in the second half. Had Georgia not been so committed to passing the ball against the Tide, the results of that game could have been very different. 

“I think strategically we’d have been better off trying to go downhill more,” Mark Richt said Tuesday. “There’s some things we tried to do outside and with the wet turf and some matchups we had out there on the edge, I think our best shot would have been to go downhill against them.”

Georgia’s coach wasn’t the only one with some regrets in the game. 

“I thought we should have went right at them,” running back Nick Chubb said. “But I trust the coaches and what they call, so it doesn’t matter to me.”

Don’t expect the Bulldogs to air it out against the Vols with their SEC hopes on the line this weekend. If Tennessee is going to pull of the upset, it will need a huge performance from a defense that was repeatedly gashed by the run against Arkansas. The effort starts up front with the two freshmen. 

MORE NEWS: Want stories delivered to you? Sign up for our College Football newsletters.