What Will We Learn On Monday?

There is so much that is unique to playing Georgia Tech, it may be hard to fully believe a lot of what we see on Monday night. Whether Bob Shoop’s defense plays well or plays poorly, you’ll need a couple weeks of seeing them against more traditional offenses to really gauge their overall performance. The Vols are likely to play combinations at linebacker and in the secondary we may not see again all season.

On offense we’re obviously going to learn about the quarterback(s), and plenty of ink will be rightfully spilled on that. But beyond Dormady and Guarantano, what can we learn against Georgia Tech that will be telling for the rest of the non-triple-option season?

Distribution of Carries

John Kelly is a known factor, though both his ridiculous average per carry and the fact most of his carries came against lesser competition last year make us a little unsure where to set the bar for him. But what will be most educational about Tennessee’s running game is what happens behind him.

Carlin Fils-aime was listed second on the depth chart this week, but true freshman Ty Chandler has led the way in preseason buzz. I’m curious to see not just who gets the second team reps, but how many carries the Vols put in their hands.

Throw out last season’s weirdness with Kamara hurt and the whole Jalen Hurd fiasco. If we look at Butch’s first three years with relatively healthy RB’s, how were the carries distributed between the first and second team running backs?

  • 2015:  Jalen Hurd 277 carries, Alvin Kamara 107 (72%/28%)
  • 2014:  Jalen Hurd 190 carries, Marlin Lane 86 (69%/31%)
  • 2013:  Rajion Neal 215 carries, Marlin Lane 101 (68%/32%)

In Butch’s tenure, only Jalen Hurd in 2015 (21.3) has averaged more than 18 carries per game. Are the Vols going to give John Kelly that kind of load? Even if they do, there should be 7-10 carries to go to the backup(s) if history holds. Will Ty Chandler get all of those, or will CFA get his chance as well?

Does this team have a number two wide receiver?

Not counting Ethan Wolf or John Kelly?

Maybe Josh Smith would have been this answer, and he might still play even after a shoulder injury scare in fall camp. But after Jauan Jennings, Tennessee’s depth chart at wide receiver is five flavors of OR. Smith, Tyler Byrd, and Latrell Williams are battling it out in the slot. Meanwhile true freshman Josh Palmer – a three-star Canadian import who was committed to Syracuse three weeks before signing day – is one of the ORs on the outside opposite Jennings, alongside Brandon Johnson.

Perhaps the Vols found a diamond in the Ontario rough. Perhaps his inclusion is more of an indictment on the other guys on the roster, especially those who have been here longer than a few months. Either way, with a new quarterback and new offensive coordinator, will Palmer or any one of these other guys step up Monday night? Or will OR be a multi-game starter at wide receiver?

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Gavin Driskill
Gavin Driskill

With the announcement that Kirkland is out for the season, I guess we’ll learn what our LB rotation looks like for the year :-/

I think we’ll also learn about the general maturity of the team. We all know that there are new faces at important skill positions, but there are also lots of returning players with valuable experience. In a game like this where it can get late early (a la App “don’t call me Appy” State), can leaders emerge to keep the team engaged?