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Offensive Review: Tennessee-Georgia Tech

As we’ve covered already, the Labor Day game between Tennessee and Georgia Tech was deeply, unbelievably weird. The fact that Tennessee has replaced Smokey with a gray trash can was maybe the 12th-strangest moment of the game. Tennessee survived getting destroyed on the ground (and kinda through the air) by a Georgia Tech team few had in their preseason Top 25s. It’ll be an interesting season, but what can we learn from the first game? Quite a bit about the offense, actually.

Georgia Tech’s 4-2-5 defense and multiple looks (including several with three down linemen) isn’t too different at all from what Tennessee will face in the SEC. Teams will look to create secondary pressure and blitz through some of the holes in Tennessee’s line. Here’s how Tennessee’s line graded out in Game One from my view:

  1. Kendrick: 0 missed blocks, 2 great run blocks
  2. Jones: 3 missed blocks
  3. Robertson: 2 missed blocks, 1 great run block, 3 high snaps
  4. Smith: 1 missed pass block, 1 great run block
  5. Tatum: 4 missed blocks

The interior of the line can really be attacked, as can Tatum’s side. There were at least two or three pass attempts where a GT defensive end or edge rusher blew Tatum into the backfield and almost into Quinten Dormady’s face. They sharpened up a bit in the second half and overtime, but the problems are still there. We’ll see how well those get corrected. Here’s how individual players looked offensively.

Quinten Dormady

Twitter user and overall good guy Troy Eckleberry made a great thread yesterday about Dormady’s performance in this game and I highly recommend you look at it in-depth:

Troy hits on a key problem with Dormady. The brain’s at least somewhat there. The arm talent’s clearly there. The feet aren’t at all. Dormady has the worst footwork of a starting Tennessee quarterback since Nick Stephens, and I can’t believe Mike Canales or another staff member didn’t devote months to working on this. Dormady opens his hips to the ball a lot and panic-throws off of his back foot when pressure comes. That’s fine if you either a.) get the ball there or b.) have great receivers, but Tennessee struggled with both minus Marquez Callaway in Game One.

Here’s how I have Quinten Dormady graded out in Game One:

Dormady’s statline in full: 20-37, 221 yards (124 after catch), 2 TDs, 5 interceptable balls (~1-1.25 expected interceptions), 4.85 air yards/completion, 8.19 air yards/attempt. Now, as much as I noted Georgia Tech’s secondary in the game preview, I thought they’d give Dormady what he’d want within 15 yards. They sort of did: Dormady had routes on the short right (<10 yards) side of the field all game long, and he’s clearly very comfortable rolling to his right to find Ethan Wolf, John Kelly, or Brandon Johnson.

However, anything past double-digit yards was a hold-your-breath moment. Dormady went 3 for 14 on passes past 9 yards, throwing four interceptable passes and probably feeling very lucky to escape without at least one turnover. While receivers did drop three balls past 10+ yards, that still only makes it him about 6 for 14, or…not great. There’s a ton of work to be done.

Plus, Dormady was really rough on sides of the field that weren’t his strong side. The right side had routes for him all day, and he was clearly a lot more comfortable throwing there than he was anywhere else. Unless he improves his 15 yard passes and unless he gets his feet set for the left and middle side passes, teams will figure this out and pick on him all day.

However, we must also commend Dormady for keeping his composure throughout the game. Dormady’s under/overthrow rate got quite a bit better in the fourth quarter and he settled down to complete some solid passes.

John Kelly

This dude’s just a dang monster. 128 yards on the ground, 4 touchdowns, and 35 yards through the air. Kelly also broke eight tackles, by my count, and got to 128 despite a lot of plays being dead at the line of scrimmage due to three or four linemen being unable to push their man downfield. He’s going to be really freaking good. This was a mis-read by Quinten Dormady that went from a one-yard gain to a touchdown because of his shiftiness.

Again, John Kelly was considered lesser than Jalen Hurd.


While I’m not exactly over the moon for Dormady, he wasn’t helped by receivers not named Marquez Callaway. I counted at least one wrong route by Brandon Johnson (possibly two), the second-best receiver being Kelly, and a lack of separation from the group. Plus, they dropped five of Dormady’s 17 incompletions. That’s bad.

Jesus, Tyler Byrd. Alright, anyway, Tennessee had some weird stuff here. Dormady was clearly very reliant on Jennings early: six of his first 12 attempts were to Jennings, and the majority of them were short five-yard routes to get Dormady comfortable. However, GT correctly noted Tennessee’s early focus on Jennings and limited him to 17 yards before his injury.

Also, after all we heard about Josh Palmer this offseason, he got one target on a Josh Dobbs staple: the WR inside zone motion play with a rollout to the right for a WR flat route. I love that play:

Marquez Callaway

For whatever reason, this guy was fourth (and possibly fifth) on Tennessee’s wide receiver depth chart heading into the season. Prior to late in the fourth quarter, he barely saw the field – I think I counted three snaps total entering the fourth. And then he took over.

Callaway should be the #1 wide receiver going forward by a mile, but who knows with this staff.

Larry Scott

Not sure how much I can take away here. For all the hype about Tennessee going under center, I counted four of Tennessee’s 59 snaps taking place under center. A fifth was in a Pistol Twin TE set, a very unusual look for Tennessee:

Here’s Tennessee’s usage of formations:

  • Shotgun (54 of 59 snaps, 34 passes, 21 runs)
    • Shotgun Base: 16 snaps (10 passes, 6 runs), 102 yards (6.4 YPP)
    • Shotgun Ace: 4 snaps (4 runs), 9 yards (2.3 YPP)
    • Shotgun Double Flex: 2 snaps (2 passes), 10 yards (5 YPP)
    • Shotgun Overload Right: 2 snaps (2 runs), 8 yards (4 YPP)
    • Shotgun TE Left: 3 snaps (1 pass, 2 runs), 51 yards (17 YPP)
    • Shotgun TE Right: 2 snaps (2 runs), 7 yards (3.5 YPP)
    • Shotgun Trips Left: 16 snaps (15 passes, 1 run), 69 yards (4.3 YPP)
    • Shotgun Trips Right: 8 snaps (6 passes, 2 runs), 45 yards (5.6 YPP)
  • I-Formation (4 of 59 snaps, 2 passes, 2 runs)
    • I-Form Tight: 1 snap (1 pass), 0 yards
    • I-Form Two TE: 2 snaps (1 pass, 1 run), 56 yards (28 YPP)
    • Strong: 1 snap (1 run), 8 yards
  • Pistol (1 of 59 snaps, 1 run)
    • Pistol Twin TE: 1 snap (1 run), 4 yards

My early feeling is that Tennessee’s very predictable in trips sets. In my optimal world, probably 60-65% of the plays in a Trips set are passes, but the rest should be runs. Out of 24 snaps, Tennessee ran 21 dang pass plays in the Trips sets. That’s…yikes, that’s not good. Teams will know what’s coming unless Tennessee seriously reworks this side of the playbook. Plus, the vast majority of the routes in Trips Left were 10 yards or less. Something to keep an eye on.

I doubt you’ll see much different against Indiana State, obviously. Florida and the rest of the SEC are the real key here. If I’m a defensive coordinator for a Tennessee opponent, here’s what I know:

  • Tennessee can go under center, and it’s very successful, but they don’t do it often.
  • Quinten Dormady can pass short and to the right. Until further notice, we’ve got the rest of the field covered.
  • Tennessee’s right tackle and some of the interior linemen are going to struggle with our linebackers and defensive backs blitzing.
  • Double team John Kelly, I guess?
  • Some of Tennessee’s formations are predictable, but others will get our players off-balance.
  • Until further notice, we can force Quinten Dormady to beat us over the top. If we force Tennessee into 3rd and 7s, 3rd and 9s, we’ve got a good chance of succeeding.

I didn’t play football. I just watch it for fun. Tennessee, like most teams, has some good things and some bad things. If they want to win the East, they’ve got some glaring bad things to fix pretty soon. Whether they do probably depends on your opinion of the staff.

Also, here’s my offensive play chart:

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