Playing a team like the UConn Huskies makes it hard to grade Tennessee Football position units because they often all look great. However, in some cases, they looked like they would have been great against anybody. With that backdrop, here is our report card for the Vols after their 59-3 dominating homecoming victory.
Joe Milton III took a sack and missed a throw. Nico Iamaleava was barely over 50 percent when he came in. Okay, so we’re being picky. The Vols played four quarterbacks and, as a unit, finished 21-of-31 for 375 yards while rushing for another 44 yards and scoring four total touchdowns with no turnovers. Those nitpicks are just why this isn’t an A+.
Running backs: A+
Jaylen Wright’s 82 yard touchdown run alone gives this an A+, but even as Tennessee Football went deeper into the rotation, everybody balled out. This unit as a whole finished with 28 carries for 231 yards and another three catches for 30 yards, as Wright, Dylan Sampson, Cameron Seldon, Hunter Barnes, Khalifa Keith and Patrick Wilk all saw action.
Wide receivers: A+
Ramel Keyton caught a 60-yard touchdown strike, and Squirrel White took one 83 yards to the house. Kaleb Webb had a 28-yard grab, Dont’e Thornton had two catches for 26 yards, and even Dee Williams came in with an 11-yard catch. Here is where things were so easy it was hard to grade them, but they did nothing wrong.
Tight ends: A+
McCallan Castles was the go-to receiver when Nico Iamaleava was in the game, catching his touchdown pass, and he finished with four grabs for 56 yards. Tennessee Football also turned to Ethan Davis in the second half, and he had two catches for 23 yards, so the Vols were extremely effective when it came to the play of tight ends in this game. Here’s a third straight perfect score.
Offensive line: A-
A couple of penalties and giving up a sack along with three tackles for a loss kept this unit from being an A+. Hey, again, we had to nitpick. They were playing UConn after all, and they didn’t do everything perfectly. That one punt by the Vols in the first half was due to a Joe Milton III overthrow, but even before that, this unit caused a third down to come up. Otherwise, though, they were perfect.
Defensive tackles: A
You weren’t going to see a lot of stats from the Vols defensive tackles in this game because of the way Jim Mora Jr. and UConn rely on the west coast offense. It’s all about quick reads and getting the ball out. However, they were tasked with taking away the run game, and UConn averaged under one and a half yards a carry on the ground.
Edge rushers: A+
In similar fashion, the Tennessee Football defensive ends weren’t going to have opportunities to make big plays given the quick reads. Tyler Baron still found ways, though. He finished with two tackles for a loss and returned a fumble for a touchdown. Elite play like that was able to push the grade for the entire unit to an A+.
Stopping the run was as much a part of the linebackers as it was the defensive tackles. Elijah Herring led the team in tackles. Meanwhile, Aaron Beasley had a pick-six, which should have pushed this to an A+. However, UConn moved the ball too often with their quick strikes, and the linebackers often didn’t close in when playing zone coverage.
UConn’s moving the ball kept the Vols’ defensive backs from getting an A. Jaylen McCollough’s play alone, including his pick-six, kept it from being in the C-range. Gabe Jeudy-Lally did force the fumble that Baron returned for a touchdown, but the cornerbacks still allowed the Huskies to gain far too many yards on the quick passing strikes.
Kicking game: A
Charles Campbell didn’t miss an extra point, and Josh Turbyville was able to hit his only one while also making the only field goal attempt of the game for the Vols, a 33-yarder. Jackson Ross only averaged 41.5 yards a punt, but both of his punts pinned UConn inside the 20-yard line. Nothing spectacular was done with this unit, but it did enough for that A.
Return game: B
Dee Williams had an 18-yard punt return and another one that went for seven yards. He also had a 23-yard kickoff return, and Cam Seldon had a 15-yard return. Again, this was nothing spectacular for Tennessee Football, but as part of the return game, they needed more to get into the A-range. Williams’ one big punt return keeps it above average, though.