Tennessee's position grades for 2015
Tennessee didn’t win the SEC East in 2015 or contend for a playoff spot. But the Vols did finish with six straight wins, including a demolition of No. 13 Northwestern in the Outback Bowl.
Let’s go down the roster, position by position, to see which players were vital to the Volunteers’ success during the 2015 season.
In a conference filled with struggling quarterbacks, Joshua Dobbs found a way to make a name for himself. His athletic ability made him dangerous, but he was inconsistent with his passing. Sometimes, the big moments seemed too big for him to handle. He averaged 176.2 passing yards per game, passed for 15 touchdowns and threw five interceptions. He also led the SEC with 671 rushing yards this season, and had six games with 50 rushing yards or more, including 136 yards against Florida and 118 yards against Georgia.
The tandem of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara combined for almost 2,000 yards. Hurd had 1,288 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Kamara added 698 more rushing yards on 6.5 yards per carry.
Injuries wrecked havoc on the wide receivers as the Vols struggled to develop a consistent passing game. Only two wide receivers — Josh Malone and Von Pearson — had 100-yard receiving games this season. However, the group did a solid job blocking, helping the Vols finish second in the SEC in rushing.
The offensive line suffered numerous injuries, but did an excellent job executing run blocking schemes (Tennessee averaged 223 rushing yards per game). Pass blocking was a different story though, as Dobbs was sacked 21 times this season.
Sophomore Derek Barnett had 69 tackles, 10 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. Corey Vereen found his groove during the second half of the season and finished with 3.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. And Owen Williams was solid in the middle of Tennessee’s defensive line with 6.5 tackles for loss. Overall, the defensive line played much better in the second half of the season.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin led the defense with 105 tackles and 14 tackles for loss. He also had six sacks. Freshman Darrin Kirkland Jr. did well in place of injured Curt Maggitt, racking up 66 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks.
This group was torn apart in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma and Florida, but regrouped and played much better during the second half of the season. The four interceptions against Northwestern was the high point of the season.
Evan Berry led the nation in kickoff return average (38.3 yards) with three TDs. Cam Sutton averaged 18.7 yards per punt return with two TDs. Trevor Daniel averaged 45.7 yards per punt and had 25 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. The only weak link on special teams was Aaron Medley who only made 21-of-31 field goal attempts.