DANIA BEACH, Fla. — Tennessee will enter the Orange Bowl on Friday without three of its best players on offense.
When the sixth-ranked Volunteers play No. 7 Clemson at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, they will be without quarterback Hendon Hooker and wide receivers Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman.
What will the Vols do?
They are likely to run the football. And what most don’t know is Tennessee can run the football.
“They want to throw the ball down the field, but it is also a huge challenge with their run game,” Clemson defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin said. “They play physical up front and they run it for a lot of yards. That offensive line is going to be a huge challenge.”
Tennessee (10-2) is averaging 205.8 yards per game on the ground and 5.1 yards per carry.
Jabari Small will get the start for the Vols in the Orange Bowl, but Jaylen Wright is the team’s leading rusher. He led the team with 786 yards and 10 touchdowns. Small, who has had shoulder problems, ran for 696 yards, and 12 scores.
They also have freshman Dylan Sampson, who made an impact late in the year while running for 397 yards and six touchdowns. He is averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
“You really have to swarm to the ball against this offense and really gang tackle them,” linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. “They got guys that can make plays and break tackles, so you have to make sure your tackling is there.”
And if the running game starts working, then that opens up a passing game that will lull a team to sleep with dinks and dunks and then all of a sudden will throw the deep ball.
Michigan transfer Joe Milton will take over for Hooker at quarterback, while Ramel Keyton hopes to pick up the slack for Hyatt and Tillman’s departure.
“It’s the fastest offense that we’ll see this year. The tempo that they move at is unbelievable. As a defense, we need to control the game,” Trotter said. “We need to slow them down and make sure that they get uncomfortable and we should come out successful.”