By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports
Time to share my top takeaways from Tennessee’s 59-3 win over ETSU, Saturday, in the home opener at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.
At the bottom you will find the starting line-up from the game.
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–Take Care Of Business: ETSU is in the lower end of the FCS, so it posed no legit threat to the Vols…just get through the game, develop players in game situations, rest your starters and move along,
–Avoided Significant Injuries: Although a few guys came out of the game shaken-up (Warrior, Abernathy, Jackson,) it appears the team avoided significant injuries
–Playing Time: UT was able to play a lot of players (69) in the game. The Vols played 60 in Charlotte.
–Freshmen/Newcomers: The Vols played 12 true freshmen, 4 more JUCOs from the 2018 class and 2 more grad transfers. That means 18 newcomers saw action.
-Fundamentals: Tennessee still has not turned the ball over this season and has only 9 penalties in two games. Those are clear improvements and signs of discipline.
–The Bryce Is Right: The four-star true freshman from Irmo, SC earned his first career start after an excellent week of practice. In the game, he recorded four tackles, two tackles for loss, a pass breakup and his first-career interception, which he returned for 21 yards
–Need Gooden To Be Good: In-state JUCO signee Emmit Gooden showed some of his potential in the game with a team-high 8 tackles, 1 sack and 3 TFLs.
–Tip Drill: Even though Kyle Phillips wasn’t credited in the stat book like he should have, I thought his pass deflections were disruptive to ETSU’s offense
–Guarantano The Guy: RS So. QB Jarrett Guarantano continues to look sharp throwing the football. We saw him connect on a couple of 50+ yard deep ball completions. Coaches still want more from him on decision-making (when to run, when to get rid of the ball and not take sacks, getting them in the right plays, etc)
–Crisp Chryst: 3-of-3 for 70 yds and 1 TD (50 yds on a perfectly thrown deep ball to Jordan Murphy) is a decent stat line in a relief role. He looks in command and smooth throwing the ball. There was one time were ETSU shifted to overload left presnap and Chryst didn’t change the play to run right or to another play. Hard to know in that situation in the second half if he had the ability to alter plays or not.
–Helton Evolution: I thought OC Tyson Helton called a nice game. He took some deep shots that they didn’t take in the West Virginia game. He had a jet sweep to Palmer that went for a TD. He adjusted the run game to some gap scheme power runs that Jeremy Banks looked good in. Plus, the found a way to settle down the offensive line after a rough start. The question is, will he stay aggressive against teams with great fronts if he doesn’t have confidence in his line to protect the QB.
–Banks The Hammer: Paul Bain called true freshman RB Jeremy Banks “a hammer” which seemed awfully appropriate considering the way Banks ran the football. Banks is a big man with quick feet and speed. Banks had two rushing TDs in 15 seconds of game clock. He brings energy and “juice” to the offense. His only critique was being talked to about encouraging the fans to get loud when the Vols were on offense at the 1-yd line. Pruitt said he’s a guy they have to dial back at times, but you’d rather have a guy you say whoa not go to.
–Turnovers: It was enjoyable for many to see Darrin Kirkland Jr. get a interception off a tipped ball and return it for a TD. With everything he’s been through with injuries and nearly transferring, it certainly felt good for him. He looked the quickest and most athletic I can remember seeing him since his freshman campaign. True freshman Bryce Thompson nearly had a pick six as well. He has great ball skills, athleticism and competitiveness.
–Must Be Better: The offensive line is still very much a concern despite Jeremy Pruitt not giving that impression in interviews. UT has allowed 27 zero yardage or negative yardage run plays in the first two games…16 vs. WVU and 11 vs. ETSU.) We’ll see if there’s a change at RT where Marcus Tatum appeared to be a little more consistent than Drew Richmond Saturday. Richmond, frankly, doesn’t look much better than he has the last few seasons. I thought Jahmir Johnson struggled early, but was better when they went to some power toss sweep runs. Jerome Carvin was effective pulling from his RG spot in short yardage. He has really good potential, but he’s obviously very young as just a true freshman. Ryan Johnson was ok at center, but wasn’t dominant. Chance Hall has been playing RG when seeing action. Nathan Niehaus and K-Rojhn Calbert saw some action as well. LT Trey Smith at less than 100% is, as expected, still clearly the Vols best offensive lineman.
–D-Line The Life-Line: UT lacks game-changers and depth across the front-line of the defense, including the OLBs that rush and contain off the edge. This isn’t about just about sack stats (one vs. ETSU) but about all aspects of disrupting offenses and affecting the QB. Kongbo and Taylor have to be forces (and they’ve been far from it) rushing off the edge, especially if Phillips and Alexis Johnson aren’t going to regularly get home to the QB. Some of the d-line role is to eat-up double-teams, get off blocks, play their proper gaps in the run game and reposition the line of scrimmage, but none of those things are at a level close to where they need it to be in SEC play, especially while the defense still tries to figure out who will do what in the secondary. All five DLs from the 2018 class have already played, so the hope for UT is that this group will evolve and a few will emerge.
–Special Teams Spark: Overall, the Vols have been sound in the kicking game. Joe Doyle has punted well. There hasn’t been any sign of shakiness from PK Brent Cimaglia, the coverage units have been solid and Marquill Osborne blocked a punt in the game which he scooped and scored with. That’s the second blocked punt of the season for UT. The Vols haven’t been able to bust any big returns yet. The biggest error was made by Marquez Callaway, who let a punt bounce in front of him that took an ETSU roll. That got Callaway a face full of his head coach up in his helmet to let him know that’s unacceptable.
Tennessee Football Starters & Participation Chart vs. ETSU
BOLD = Newcomer (freshman/JUCO/grad transfer)
FB 4 Dominick Wood-Anderson
LT 73 Trey Smith
LG 58 Jahmir Johnson
C 70 Ryan Johnson
RG 75 Jerome Carvin
RT 51 Drew Richmond
WR 1 Marquez Callaway
WR 84 Josh Palmer
WR 7 Brandon Johnson
QB 2 Jarrett Guarantano
TB 9 Tim Jordan
DE 5 Kyle Phillips
NT 2T Shy Tuttle
DE 98 Alexis Johnson Jr.
JACK 99 Jonathan Kongbo
SAM 1T Darrell Taylor
MLB 35 Daniel Bituli
WLB 34 Darrin Kirkland Jr.
CB 20 Bryce Thompson
CB 2B Baylen Buchanan
S 18 Nigel Warrior
S 22 Micah Abernathy
Tennessee Reserves (47)
13-Johnson,D., 14-Sapp,Q., 12-Shamburger,S., 17-Bates,D., 21-Reid,S., 26-Jackson,T., 3-Osborne,M., 20-Labruzza,C., 42-Cimaglia,B., 6-Taylor,A., 79 Garland,K., 8-Allen,J., 10-Byrd,T., 11-Murphy,J., 15-Jennings,J., 19-Chryst,K., 23-Ignont,W., 25-Flowers,T., 27-Fils-Aime,C., 30-Smith,A., 31-London,M., 33-Banks,J., 37-Brooks,P., 39-Henderson,D., 41-George,K., 44-Fant,P., 47-Doyle,J., 48-Blakely,J., 52-Medford,E., 54-Harris,K., 56-Locklear,R., 57-Niehaus,N., 59-Mincey,J., 68-Tatum,M., 69-Garvey,B., 74-Calbert,K., 76-Hall,C., 80-Wolf,E., 81-Pope,A., 85-Tillman,C., 86-Craig,A., 88-Bumphus,L., 89-Elion,M., 90-Emerson,G., 93-Gooden,E., 94-Butler,M., 97-Bain,P.
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