They’re both mobile quarterbacks playing for a first-year head coach, and they’re both banged up when facing Tennessee football. That’s about as far as the similarities go.
Two weeks ago, the Vols were so focused on Anthony Richardson’s mobility that they kept him in the pocket, which allowed him to throw for over 450 yards. UT almost lost to the Florida Gators as a result despite winning 38-33.
Now, traveling to Death Valley, Tennessee football coaches and players say a similar tactic will be the goal against LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels. Byron Young said the goal is keeping him in the pocket as much as possible.
“Going into this game, he’s the leading rusher for the team, so our No. 1 job is to contain him, make him uncomfortable,” he said.
Daniels has 60 carries for 321 yards and three touchdowns this year. He has completed 89 of 131 passes (67 percent) for 915 yards (7 yards per attempt), six touchdowns and no interceptions.
Safety Jaylen McCollough had a similar take on Daniels to Young. He went even further in drawing direct similarities to Richardson and Daniels.
“Those guys have a lot of similar traits,” he said. “They both can extend plays. They’re both great athletes.”
Despite these comments, Richardson and Daniels are dramatically different. Richardson has only been sacked three times this year while LSU has allowed 16 sacks.
On the other side, while Richardson has thrown six interceptions on the year, Daniels has thrown none, just like Hendon Hooker. Linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary has an explanation for the different results.
“Obviously, Anthony (is) a little heavier,” he said. “He’s in the 230-plus range. Jayden is probably a little slighter but still runs as hard and is as elusive.”
Indeed, while Richardson stands at 6’4″ 232 pounds, Daniels stands at 6’3″ 200 pounds. That’s a huge difference and allows Richardson to be a bigger threat running up the middle.
Heupel noted on Monday that the way both quarterbacks finish runs is a bit different. Jean-Mary elaborated on that in his Tuesday media session.
“I think they’re comparable as athletes and as runners, but obviously Anthony, being a little bigger, might be a little bit more of a between-the-tackles guy, where Jayden is probably a little more off-tackle,” he said.
So how does this all affect Tennessee football, which is mostly just focused on not giving up 450 yards through the air again? Well, similar to what we wrote on Monday, the ends can focus more on getting sacks.
Although gap integrity is still important, and although forcing Daniels back into the pocket is important, Young and Tyler Baron can be more aggressive on the outside. That’s because Daniels will have fewer lanes to run through.
Part of that is him not being much of a threat up the middle, but another part is LSU’s line simply not being as good as Florida’s. UT should be able to bring pressure without blitzing. Key, though, is not getting beat on broken plays.
“That’s what makes those guys special, is they have designed runs, but if it’s a pass play and it turns into a scramble scenario, you get a chance to see some of their athletic ability,” Jean-Mary said. “You can practice and plan for it, but when you have high-level athletes like, obviously, Richardson and then the Daniels kid this week, you have to be able to overcome some of those broken plays when there was a pass play that was actually called.”
Jean-Mary added that it’s as important for the front seven to be effective with its pass defense as the secondary. That’ll be even more important now that Warren Burrell’s out for the year.
Specifically, eliminating blitz errors from linebacker or pass rush errors up front are key. Jean-Mary noted that both were issues against Florida.
“There was a couple times there were blitzes that weren’t executed at a high level, and then we gave the quarterback too much time to sit in the pocket, or it was a scramble scenario where we didn’t do a great job of latching,” he said.