It was certainly the cleanest performance Tennessee Football has enjoyed since its season-opening win against the Virginia Cavaliers, but the Vols still showed they have a lot of things to fix. Here is a look at our report card for UT following their 45-14 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners on Rocky Top Saturday.
Joe Milton III’s stat line was inefficient, going 18-of-31 for 209 yards and two touchdowns. He overthrew an elementary touchdown pass and had a string of bad overthrows in the third quarter. However, that came after he took a shot and was clearly banged up. Still, with his 81-yard touchdown run, it’s safe to say his play was fine.
Running Backs: A-
Dylan Sampson finally had his breakout performance, running the ball 11 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a 20-yard reception. Add in Jabari Small running it nine times for 61 yards and a touchdown while Jaylen Wright ran it four times for 16 yards and had an 11-yard catch, and this unit had just under 250 yards from scrimmage on the day.
Wide receivers: B+
Dont’e Thornton had another inexcusable drop. That alone is why the Tennessee Football wide receiver play was knocked to a B+. They didn’t get too involved in the passing game, but they still managed to be effective overall. Ramel Keyton had a 48-yard TD grab, Kaleb Webb had a TD, Bru McCoy had three catches for 30 yards and Squirrel White had four catches for 29 yards.
Tight ends: A
Similar to the wide receivers, the Vols made a few plays in the passing game at tight end but not many. Jacob Warren had two catches for six yards, and McCallan Castles had two catches for 19 yards. The outside blocking, though, is why this group gets an A. That triggered the dominant rushing attack UT needed in this one.
Offensive Line: C-
Milton’s first run to keep UTSA honest and outside blocking by the receivers and tight ends is why the Vols ran the ball well. Interior blocking was still atrocious. Andrej Karic missed on another key block, which resulted in Milton getting hit and knocking him off this game. UT needs Cooper Mays back fast, as it keeps struggling here.
Defensive tackles: A
Despite Omarr Norman-Lott being suspended for the first half, he still managed a sack. Bryson Eason assisted on one. Omari Thomas got a consistent push all game. This is why Tennessee Football was able to finish with four sacks and seven tackles for a loss. There will be a lot of praise for other people on this roster, but it started with the defensive tackles.
Edge rushers: C+
Tyler Baron did have a sack, but the Vols should have had a field day off the edge given the fact that Frank Harris was injured. Stopping the run almost kept this unit at average, as UTSA only had 88 yards on 40 carries, but that’s a testament to the defensive tackles. The edge rushers keep missing golden opportunities to have big games, and they did so again.
Aaron Beasley wasn’t the biggest star this time, but he still came away with an assist on a tackle for a loss and nine tackles, two of which were solo. Elijah Herring had an improved performance at linebacker, grabbing a tackle for a loss, and Caleb Herring had a sack. The role this unit played in stopping the run also warrants an A.
Defensive backs: B-
Tamarion McDonald had a historic game with a sack, two tackles for a loss and an interception. Warren Burrell also came down with a pick. However, the third quarter pushed this grade down to a B-, as the Vols ended up allowing UTSA to throw for over 230 yards and two touchdowns. That can’t happen against a team like this.
Kicking game: B
Charles Campbell missed a field goal, and Jackson Ross had two bad punts. However, Ross had one punt go over 50 yards and pinned three inside the 20. Campbell’s miss was on a kick from over 50 yards out, and he made everything else, so while this unit wasn’t spectacular, it still warrants an above average grade.
Return game: D
Dee Williams had one four-yard punt return and averaged 17 yards on his two kickoff returns. There’s nothing standout about that. However, Cameron Seldon made a critical mistake in letting one punt bounce off him, resulting in a fumble. That automatically pushes this grade down to a D, and it maybe should have been an F.