It’s hard to give any unit a passing grade after Saturday, but Tennessee Football did have some people step up. Graded on a massive curve against them since they were playing a bad FCS foe, here is our report card for the Vols after their 30-13 win over the Austin Peay Governors.
Joe Milton III started 1-of-8 and only finished with a decent stat line because Josh Heupel screened Austin Peay to death in this game. He did have a key touchdown run at the end of the half and two touchdown passes, neither of which was an easy screen, so he deserves some credit, but by and large, he was awful.
Running back: C+
Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small combined for over 200 yards on the ground and added over 30 receiving yards. However, Tennessee Football should have dominated on the ground against a bad Austin Peay team. Small still missed on a pass block on one play and then dropped a sure touchdown on a screen for another, so that pushes this to average.
Wide receiver: F
For as bad as Joe Milton was, the receivers were worse. There were two drops apiece by Bru McCoy, Squirrel White and Dont’e Thornton. Then Ramel Keyton fumbled on a drive in the second half that cost the Vols a clear score. Yes, Milton missed on many throws, but they were almost all semi-catchable, and the receivers came down with none of them. Then there were multiple holds on the screens.
Tight end: C
McCallan Castles did have a touchdown catch, but he also had a drop early on. Those cancel each other out in a game like this. Nothing else for Tennessee Football stood out when it comes to this position, although Warren did have an 11-yard catch and was solid blocking on many of those screen passes.
Offensive line: C-
Again, for the most part, it’s hard to point to any positives no matter how great the Vols were at running the ball simply because they should have been. Austin Peay is that bad on the defensive line. They still gave up a sack and five tackles for a loss, and Milton was hurried more than a few times, so this barely earns an average.
Defensive line: D+
We could have given them an A through the first three quarters, but Austin Peay was able to control the clock running on Tennessee Football on the final few drives of the game, which kept the score as ugly as it was. That was enough to give this unit a D+ despite Tyler Baron, Joshua Josephs and James Pearce Jr. all registering sacks.
Welcome to the one unit for the Vols that actually could be proud of how they played. Even without Keenan Pili, Aaron Beasley had a historic performance, registering five tackles for a loss, two sacks, a pass. breakup and nine tackles, eight of which were solo. Elijah Herring also started and was solid, so we can give this an above average grade.
Kamal Hadden registered a pick and three pass breakups. Wesley Walker had a sack and was solid at free safety. However, Doneiko Slaughter blew an assignment on Austin Peay’s lone touchdown pass, and the poor defensive back play did keep the Tennessee Football defense on the field in the second half, so it finished barely above average.
Kicking game: A-
Jackson Ross had two bad punts. He then had two punts of over 45 yards to pin Austin Peay inside the 20-yard line, and one resulted in a fumble. Charles Campbell made all three field goals and still hasn’t missed an extra point on the year. Ross’ improvement was a huge boost for the kicking game and the Vols’ special teams in general.
Return game: C-
Dee Williams looked nothing like the Wiliams who showed up against the Virginia Cavaliers. He had a 13-yard punt return but averaged just nine yards a return, and despite a 33-yard kickoff return, he also had an eight-yard return, so Tennessee Football was extremely average in the return game given its opponent.