How did Tennessee’s performance against Georgia Tech affect our outlook on the rest of the season? In this week’s win probability (and you can still fill in your own at the bottom of that post), our readers nudge the Vols to the right side of eight wins:
Most noteworthy here: our readers now find Florida a more likely victory than Georgia. But the rest of the numbers show this has more to do with what the Gators did than what we saw from the Vols.
Again, it’s difficult to make meaningful observations about the rest of the season from a week one date with the triple option. The good news: it’s Indiana State this Saturday, which means instead of going from a grueling overtime opener to the spectacle of Bristol like last year, the Vols get a much-needed visit from an FCS school with a losing record. The bad news: I’m not sure how much we’re going to learn this week either.
What is most exciting in the week two syllabus?
John Kelly, Marquez Callaway, Ethan Wolf, and…?
When Jauan Jennings went down, Quinten Dormady and Tennessee’s passing game went three places. To no surprise in the Butch Jones offense, the running back played a major role: John Kelly led the team with five receptions. Marquez Callaway was a revelation with 115 yards and two scores. And Ethan Wolf was inches away from what would have been his most productive day in a Tennessee uniform.
Will we see anyone begin to emerge behind those three? Brandon Johnson caught three passes but for only 14 yards underneath against the Yellow Jackets. Josh Palmer started but finished with just one catch. Does Josh Smith play? Can Tyler Byrd get on the same page with the quarterback(s)? Do we see more from some of the backups? The more options the Gators have to prepare for, the better.
How do the Vols rotate on defense?
Plenty of conversation in this short week has emerged around the number of snaps some of Tennessee’s defenders played. The Vols had five of the nation’s Top 50 defenders in total tackles in week one. This is in part because Georgia Tech had 96 offensive snaps in a double overtime game. But it’s also because, despite this, the Vols didn’t really rotate a lot of defenders.
Ten of UT’s starting eleven defenders had at least six tackles; Justin Martin was the odd man out. But behind the starters, no one recorded more than three total tackles. 116 of Tennessee’s 131 total tackles came from those ten players.
The drop-off is even more striking by position:
- Linebacker: Bituli, Jumper, & McDowell 54 combined tackles; Elliott Berry 1, Quart’e Sapp 1
- Defensive End: Kongbo & Taylor 19 combined tackles; Kyle Phillips 2
- Safety: Abernathy & Warrior 22 combined tackles; Todd Kelly Jr. 3
The numbers would have been striking at defensive tackle as well had Kendal Vickers not gone out with an injury. Against 96 plays and 40+ minutes of possession, the Vols rolled with their starters all night long.
The million dollar question here: was that because the coaches didn’t trust any of the backups against Georgia Tech’s offense, or don’t trust the backups period?
They’ll trust them plenty against Indiana State, and those big names up there could use the rest. We won’t know how deep Bob Shoop and Butch Jones’ trust goes until Gainesville. But seeing who the fourth options are at defensive end, defensive tackle, and safety will be of note, and we’ll get that information this Saturday.
We all know the injury narrative from last season. I’d like to know if guys like Kyle Phillips, Quart’e Sapp, Alexis Johnson, and any number of freshmen can help this team before they have to help this team.
Resting Heart Rate
Months ago you could already see how much healthier Tennessee’s schedule was going to be this year. But I have felt it this week, and you probably have too. We got so used to our hearts beating at 150 bpm every week last fall, we bounced right back to it against Georgia Tech like an old friend who is trying to kill you. But thanks to no Bristol and no Florida-Georgia-A&M-Bama gauntlet this year, we can breathe a little deeper between Saturdays. We’ll get to the Gators. But first, man, we need some Indiana State.