In preparation for the Ole Miss game against Tennessee this Saturday, Assistant Sports Editor Ruby Draayer sat down with Jason Wyrick, executive producer of Rock Solid Sports on WUTK Radio. Check out what Jason has to say.
Q: What is the overall feeling of the fan base and the town with Lane Kiffin coming back to Neyland Stadium?
A: I think it is a mixed bag. There are those who still resent Coach Kiffin for bolting to USC and really want the Vols to stick it to him upon his return. On the flip side, many also either do not want to give Kiffin the satisfaction of being detested, have moved on and are happy with Josh Heupel and so could not care any less who is on the other side, or both. I feel like the majority of the fanbase probably lies somewhere in the middle, though. Of course there is some lingering animosity, but all things said, most fans are happy with the tangible progress Coach Heupel has made so far and that is what is most important to the majority of Tennessee fans in my opinion.
Q: Tennessee has sold out the stadium for the first time since 2017. It is also rumored that it will be checkered this weekend. What is that like for opposing teams, and how big of a deal is this matchup?
A: Neyland Stadium has historically been one of the most hostile environments in all of college football and I expect the atmosphere on Saturday to be electric. Even without sellouts it is a tough place to play, but when all 102,455 seats are filled, it is on another level of raucous. Beyond this being the most significant football game in five years here, the excitement around the program is real and fans are excited to finally have a meaningful night game at Neyland and are going all out in support. The “Checkered Neyland” tradition is making a return as well on top of that other return to Neyland that has some fans excited too.
Q: The Ole Miss Defense has struggled so far this season, what offensive weapons do the Volunteers have that we should be worried about?
A: On offense, the engine has to be running back Tiyon Evans if he is healthy. He exited the game against South Carolina and did not return, but the general thought is he was held out because of the nature of the blowout and would’ve been okay to play if needed. The offense runs through Evans, who pounds the football on the ground doing the dirty work to set up Hendon Hooker’s passing opportunities. Without success in the running game, Tennessee’s offense will be severely handicapped.
Q: So far, what has impressed you the most about the Rebels this season? What has underwhelmed you?
A: I am certainly impressed with the offensive tenacity the Rebels have shown to begin the season, especially the ability of Matt Corral to protect the football. I have only watched one Ole Miss game start to finish (against my undergrad alma mater, Louisville) but in what I have seen since, the ability to protect the football in the air while still moving it and scoring with relative efficiency has remained a trend. The defense has been underwhelming to me, especially later in games. The apparent lack of dependable depth has been an issue I have noticed and against Tennessee, it will be exacerbated. It will need to be addressed or it is liable to become a problem for Ole Miss as the game wears on.
Q: What are you most looking forward to with this game?
A: I am personally most looking forward to playing a ranked opponent at night in Neyland with a good chance to compete and not just expecting to get blown out (wow, that is a pleasant change!)
Q: Do you have any predictions?
A: I think this game will be very emotional, feeding off of the crowd’s energy and will remain relatively close throughout. I am going to predict Mississippi to win by one score, but I think it will be a game that goes down to the wire. Give me Ole Miss 48-44.