Defenders talk Virginia Tech, keeping up with the tempo

Tennessee defenders discuss the challenges the Virginia Tech offense creates.

Tennessee has shifted their focus from Appalachian State to Virginia Tech, as the team gets ready for the Hokies and the Battle at Bristol. The venue is sure to leave an impression on all those in attendance, a record amount for a football game. The Vols are excited for a unique playing experience.

"I really don't know what to expect," said starting linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. "I've seen it on pictures and on a map, it's going to be different playing on an infield. In my head, it's kind of hard to envision, but I'm definitely excited for the experience. It's kind of once-in-a-lifetime."

Redshirt senior LaTroy Lewis has seen the process of getting the Battle at Bristol ready from start to finish during his time at Tennessee.

"I remember my freshman year, when they were getting the contract and stuff ready," he said. "It just seemed forever away, and now, it's game week! So yeah, I'm pretty excited."

But the Vols are trying not to get too distracted by the event. Their attention is on what the Hokies bring to the field. It's a new look Virginia Tech team, with long time head coach Frank Beamer retiring at the end of last season. Justin Fuente, former Memphis football coach, is the new man in charge in Blacksburg. He brings with him a fast-paced offense.

Sophomore safety Micah Abernathy said this type of offense isn't something new for the team, they play against it everyday in practice. 

"Running against our offense, they're fast-tempo," he said. "We like to have a little period (in practice) where we go fast, as fast as our offense will go. That's going to condition us well for this game coming up."

This fast-paced segment of practice is called the "Sonic period." According to Lewis, he said it gives the defense confidence.

"We pride ourselves on being a no huddle, uptempo defense. Anytime we see a fast offense, we kind of pride ourselves on saying, 'Okay you're going to go fast? We're going to get lined up just as fast, if not faster."

But it's not just about scheme; there is talent on this Virginia Tech team. Junior wide receiver Isaiah Ford is a major threat on the outside, racking up 117 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Hokies' first game against Liberty. There's also 6-foot 7-inch tight end, Bucky Hodges.

Starting quarterback Jerod Evans is another story.

Evans transferred from Trinity Valley Community College, a junior college football program, where he was a star.

"He's a baller," Kirkland said. "He really does a great job at getting to his receivers down field. He also has some saviness in the run game."

In fact, the players are comparing him to another junior college transfer a few years ago. The current quarterback for the Carolina Panthers and MVP for the NFL.

"The quarterback, he's an athlete," said Abernathy. "Our comparison what we have is Cam Newton. So he may try and run plays like that and scramble a little bit, but we're going to try and stop that."

Now that it's finally here, the Battle at Bristol is shaping up to be just that, a battle.


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