Tennessee Report Card: Grading the Vols first three games through bye week
With Tennessee facing a bye week, here’s how the Vols have graded through their first three games.
Justin Worley looks like an improved passer in his senior season and is off to a strong start. Freshman Jalen Hurd has been outstanding through his first three collegiate games, leading Tennessee with 209 rushing yards. Despite injuries, the Vols’ wide receiving corps has been as good as advertised with a combined 721 yards and six touchdowns. Despite a disappointing effort against Oklahoma, Tennessee’s skill players have looked impressive this season. However, the Vols offense falls short of a higher grade due to a terrible showing from its inexperienced offensive line. Tennessee’s o-line allowed five sacks and eight QB hurries in a 34-10 loss to Oklahoma. For the Vols to compete against a tough schedule, their players in the trenches must improve.
Tennessee’s defense has forced opponents to a 23.26 conversion percentage. Even in a blowout loss to Oklahoma, the Vols forced the Sooners to a 3-of-12 conversion rate, with several drives ending in field goal attempts after starting with good field position. A.J. Johnson currently leads the SEC with 29 tackles, while Jalen Reeves-Maybin isn’t far behind with 25. Tennessee’s defensive line has also seen solid performances from players lacking experience. Freshman Derek Barnett looks to be a standout player with time and improves each game at defensive end. Todd Kelly Jr. looks to be the most impactful freshman safety since Eric Berry in 2007, starting the last two games and recording a season-best five tackles in Week 2.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Tennessee’s special teams coverage has been solid, forcing a fumble that set up its second touchdown of the season in Week 1. However, kicker Aaron Medley has been anything but consistent. Medley is 4-of-6 on field goal attempts and holds a 66.7 percentage. As the season continues, Tennessee will need to find consistency on field goal attempts to compete in close games.
Butch Jones has managed his talented freshmen class well through three games. His players are progressing and are gaining experience as the weeks pass. Obviously, his first two games are far more impressive than the disappointing blowout in Week 3. However, Tennessee was extremely outmatched by a superior Oklahoma team, despite solid play calling and entering the game well prepared.
Tennessee looks like a solid team this season. Perhaps not an elite SEC contender, but a far superior team to those of recent years past. The top-5 recruiting class has steadily contributed and should continue to grow with experience as the season continues. However, the o-line must improve in order to see any offensive production.