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Tennessee football: How will Josh Heupel approach defending LSU QB Jayden Daniels?

We all saw what happened two Saturdays ago when Tennessee football had to go up against a dual-threat quarterback. The Vols gave up over 450 yards to Anthony Richardson of the Florida Gators.

In the process, UT nearly blew a 38-21 lead late. Now, they have to face another mobile quarterback in LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels.

Once again, they’ll be without their top cornerback, as Warren Burrell is out for the season. Heupel said preparing for Daniels is similar.

“The quarterback run absolutely is a huge part of the football game,” he said in his Monday press conference. “That can be in some read game, but also just as the pocket breaks down or he goes through his progression, his ability to escape. The way they finish runs is probably a little bit different just in their style.”

While Richardson has 42 carries for 241 yards and five touchdowns on the year, Daniels has 60 carries for 321 yards and three touchdowns. He also has a higher completion percentage and a better touchdown to interception ratio.

As a result, all signs point to Daniels being a more effective dual-threat than Richardson, which should be scary for the Vols. However, there is one huge difference.

LSU has allowed 16 sacks on the year, making them one of the worst team at protecting the quarterback. Florida had only allowed three sacks. That’s where the Vols can cash in.

“There are areas that we have to grow that will show up again in this game,” Heupel said. “For us defensively, it’s the eyes, keys, tight ends are exiting in the formation. That will be critical in this football game.”

Gap integrity has been a key focus of defending these mobile quarterbacks. Tim Banks focused on stopping Richardson from running on the Vols rather than bringing pressure.

That will likely be the strategy again this week. Sure, it caused problems against Florida, but LSU gives up lots of sacks without other teams blitzing. All three of the Auburn Tigers sacks on them were with just a four-man rush.

What could also help more in this game is that even without Burrell, they do return Dee Williams. A junior college transfer in the Vols’ 2022 class, he could bring a lot to the table.

“Dee has been ramping it up here the last couple weeks,” Heupel said. I expect him to be able to play in this one. I expect him to play really well when given the opportunity.”

Taking that into account, Tennessee football should once again focus on containing the quarterback. Daniels being banged up probably helps them a bit, as he injured his knee against Auburn.

Another big reason the Vols would do well to avoid bringing pressure is how LSU uses its tight ends. Mason Taylor could be a big threat to them if they aren’t careful.

“I think he does a really good job of finding space and being in sync with the quarterback,” Heupel said of Taylor. “Targets in the middle of football field, him exiting the formation, and some of the run-pass stuff too is a huge part of what they do.”

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