North (UT) and Slye (VT) Unexpected Leaders, Players to Watch for the Battle at Bristol
Recording a catch in each of his 18 college games, Tennessee sophomore Marquez North leads the team with 264 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
The 6-foot-4, 221-pound wide receiver was a favorite target for Volunteer quarterback Justin Worley in 2013 and coaches expect his presence to grow with experience.
"He couldn't run a route last year , I'll be honest with you…it would keep me up at night," said Volunteer wide receiver coach Zach Azzanni in an early season interview. "He's a very prideful kid, that's what I love about him. It tears him up if he's not good at something. In a year or two, I'm not sure how many better there will be out there if he keeps improving the way he's been improving. To me he's that talented."
The Charlotte, N.C. native showcases his progress on college football's largest stage in 2016 as the Tennessee Volunteers match-up against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the Battle at Bristol. The World's Fastest Half-Mile transforms into the world's largest college football stadium for an event expected to break the NCAA's single-game attendance record.
Freshman kicker Joey Slye passed on a full scholarship opportunity at James Madison to walk on at Virginia Tech.
The Stafford, Va. native secured the starting spot over fellow freshman Michael Santamaria in the Hokies season opener, earning distinction as the first freshman kicker to start under Head Coach Frank Beamer since 2000.
The 5-foot-10, 217-pound kicker has put up 57 total points for the team this year, making 12 field goals and 21 extra points, but it is his off-field story that many find most compelling.
In February 2014, Slye's older brother A.J. lost his battle with leukemia and the young starter now draws on the memories of the two practicing field goals together before booting the ball.
"I kind of live for my brother now," he said in an Aug. 2014 interview. "He wanted to go to a D-I school. He was my biggest fan. I actually just think about kicking with my brother. I just kind of envision me there with him just making a regular kick with him. Everything I do, I kind of keep him in the back of my mind to try to make him proud."
On Sept. 10, 2016, the 18-year-old will make his brother proud by etching his name in the history books as a player in college football's largest game. The Battle at Bristol pits Slye and his Hokie teammates against the University of Tennessee