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Tennessee Football report card: Grading the Vols in win at Kentucky

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A complete offensive performance helped Tennessee Football pull off a crucial road win at night against the Kentucky Wildcats this weekend. What units were the best for the Vols on Saturday night, though, and who deserves the most credit for how things played out? We break that down in our report card. Here is a grade for each group.

Quarterback: A

What can we not say about Joe Milton III? He complete 18-of-21 passes for 228 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions, and he ran for another 26 yards. Milton was efficient all night in arguably the best game of his career. If he didn’t take two sacks by holding the ball too long, this would easily have been an A+.

Running backs: A+

When two running backs each total over 100 yards from scrimmage and none of them fumble, they pretty much had a perfect night. Jaylen Wright got things going with a 52-yard touchdown run on the first drive, finishing with 11 carries for 120 yards and that score. Dylan Sampson took over late, rushing for 75 yards and a score while catching four balls for 39 yards. Jabari Small added 32 yards.

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Wide receivers: A

Dont’e Thornton’s emergence was a game-changer for Tennessee Football, as he had three catches for 63 yards. Chas Nimrod proved himself a valuable wideout, coming away with a 39-yard touchdown grab. Squirrel White had four catches for 37 yards, and Ramel Keyton had the catch of the night for Tennessee Football on the final drive of the first half, finishing with three grabs for 30 yards.

Tight ends: B

Jacob Warren and McCallan Castles didn’t get involved too much in the passing game in this one, as neither had a catch. However, neither had penalties, and their blocking was a big part of why the Vols were able to dominate on the ground. Lack of big plays, though, and some breakdowns in pass protection is why this is a B.

Offensive line: B+

Again, the breakdowns in pass protection plus a couple of penalties were the reason for the offensive line not getting an A. Sure, they dominated on the ground, but late in the game, that was Sampson making plays by himself. At the end of the day, though, paving the way for over 250 rushing yards and allowing just two sacks is good enough.

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Defensive tackles: B+

Omari Thomas and Omarr Norman-Lott were a crucial part of Tennessee Football stopping Ray Davis, the best rusher in the SEC. That part of their game was an A+. However, they didn’t always get the pressure needed to spring up numerous sacks on the outside. Norman-Lott himself got one, but that was it on the night.

Defensive ends: C

You could grade this as an incomplete. Lack of push in the middle by the defensive tackles in the passing game plus way too many missed holding calls by the officials held back James Pearce Jr. and Tyler Baron. However, at the end of the day, they rarely hurried the quarterback, and none of the edge rushers had any sacks.

Linebackers: A-

Staying in position to stop the run was key for Tim Banks’ scheme in this game, and that limited the big plays. However, it put a lot on the linebackers, and despite limited stats, they did their job. Davis was held to under three yards a carry in the game, and Elijah Herring, who had the toughest job, managed to be in on every play.

Defensive backs: D+

Without Kamal Hadden, this was a huge issue for Tennessee Football. Devin Leary was highly efficient on the night, completing everything, just like Milton on the other side. He finished 28-of-39 for 372 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. The cornerbacks for the Vols fought hard, but it’s very clear they needed Hadden back there.

Kicking game: A-

Charles Campbell would have made this an A+. He got lucky with one kick hitting the uprights, but he still hit all four attempts, including a 49-yarder. The only reason it’s an A- is that Jackson Ross, on his two punts, was underwhelming, with a 38-yarder and a 43-yarder, neither of which pinned Kentucky inside its own 20-yard line. Tennessee Football had no returns, so this was the only aspect of special teams.

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