Fast-Starting Vols Gear Up For Another Mobile QB

Arkansas State's Knighten A Dual Threat Weapon

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - by Special to
Tennessee coach Butch Jones addresses the media during his Tuesday press conference at Neyland Stadium. The Vols host Arkansas State on Saturday at noon.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones addresses the media during his Tuesday press conference at Neyland Stadium. The Vols host Arkansas State on Saturday at noon.
- photo by Tennessee Athletics
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It’s a new week for Tennessee’s football team, but the challenge that awaits in Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon will be a familiar reminder of the one the Volunteers just completed.

The Volunteers have a short week to prepare for Arkansas State, a team much like Utah State, which relies heavily on a dual-threat quarterback and a physical front line.

Tennessee has to deal with the quick turnaround and the physical nature of both opponents in getting ready for Saturday's noon kickoff.

The game will be televised by the SEC Network.

"You have to be cognizant that it's a short week for us and it was a very physical football game," coach Butch Jones said in his weekly press briefing on Tuesday afternoon. "We have a lot of work to do. It’s a balancing act."

The other issue Tennessee has to balance is not being satisfied with the complete effort that produced a 38-7 win over the Aggies before a season-opening sellout crowd of 102,455. The preparation of training camp earned the team the win. Now the challenge is carrying that hunger to be the better team on the field into practice each week.

"This football team must understand what's at stake," Jones said. "The more you win, the more is at stake. What you did last week has absolutely no bearing on the outcome this week. You have to have a short-term memory, no matter if you win or you lose, you move on. It's a very, very good football team coming in here.

"This is a new week, they have to earn the respect again and earn the right to win again. That's something we'll continue to harp on."

The biggest challenge from Arkansas State will come from the quarterback position, which is nothing new for the Tennessee defense.

Much like the Aggies’ Chuckie Keeton on Sunday, the Red Wolves’ Fredi Knighten is a threat on the ground and through the air.

"Explosive, dynamic with the ball in his hands," Jones said of Knighten. "(He) has to be accounted for in everything he does and can distribute the football. He can flip field position and change the game in one snap."

He certainly lived up to the description in ASU's season opener. The junior accounted for 368 yards of total offense in the 37-10 win over Montana State. Knighten threw for 219 yards and a touchdown on 19-of-29 passing, ran the ball 15 times for 104 yards and even had a 45-yard pass reception.

Knighten earned the starting spot after splitting time a year ago. He started ASU's Bowl game and was named MVP after a then-career-high 212 yards of total offense. He led a late-game three-play, 55-yard drive that gave ASU the win.

For the Vols, containing Knighten gives the team a good focal point in practice for a challenging spot in the schedule.

The Vols have to put the USU win behind them and also focus on what is directly ahead of them and not peek at huge challenges in the coming weeks at Oklahoma and Georgia

But Jones says he is not worried about his team looking ahead.

"We haven't done anything yet," he said. "We've won one football game." 

NOTE: Jones said senior starting left tackle Jacob Gilliam suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will miss the remainder of the 2014 season.

A former walk-on, Gilliam drew his first-career start in the Vols' season-opening game Sunday night. The Farragut product earned a scholarship in May 2014 after four years as a walk-on with the Vols playing in just three games over the last two seasons.

(E-mail Larry Fleming at or follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)

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