After shutting down the Razorbacks in the first half and leading by 13 at halftime, the Volunteers were shutout themselves in the second half.
Now, let’s dish out some grades for the worst second half performance I’ve seen since the Georgia game.
Quarterbacks = D
The only thing that keeps this from being an F is Harrison Bailey. While Bailey did throw two picks, he was easily the best quarterback to see the field for the Vols. He ran the two-minute offense well enough to get Tennessee into the red zone in the dying minutes of the game. Did he throw a pick? Yes. However, Bailey completed short passes, something that Jarrett Guarantano struggles with. He led the team in passing despite only playing the least three Volunteer quarterbacks, going 6-for-9 for 65 yards, and two interceptions.
Speaking of Guarantano, he didn’t play too bad. He just got injured. He ran when he needed to instead of forcing the ball like the Guarantano we’re all used to. He finished the game 5-of-8 for 42 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions, and five carries for 31 yards.
The main quarterback that brings the Volunteers grade down is Brian Maurer, who went 0-for-4 and had two carries for three yards. He was a far cry from the player he was last year, but he’s been going through a lot this week, so I’m not going to hit him too hard tonight.
Running Backs = B
Goodness gracious did Eric Gray have himself a night, 31 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown, averaging four yards per carry; Gray was one of the bright spots tonight.
The rest of the running backs, not so much. Freshman, Jabari Small, carried the ball eight times for 18 yards and Chandler, who is battling an ankle injury, carried the ball once for zero yards. I can’t attack the running backs this week. They played well in the first half but didn’t in the second.
Wide Receivers = D
Another week, another day where the wide receivers grade suffers because of incompetence at quarterback. The Vols leading receiver was Josh Palmer, who caught two balls for 28 yards.
Gray was the second-best receiver on the team, catching three for 27 yards, and Brandon Johnson was third with one reception for 24 yards. The Volunteers just struggled once again to get it done in the air.
Offensive Line = B
Great first half performance. The line opened up huge holes in the first half, allowing Gray to have a fantastic first half performance. Unfortunately, in the second half, things got heavy for the Volunteers. The team struggled to get things going, and Tennessee paid the ultimate price.
I can’t put this loss on the offensive line either; they didn’t play poorly.
Overall = F
I hate to give them a failing grade because the coaches let this team down big time. At the same time, this offense needs a leader to step up, and it feels like nobody is stepping up to the plate.
Defensive Line = B
Kivon Bennett grabbed himself two sacks in tonight’s loss to the Razorbacks, which he has never done before. Paired with two tackles for a loss, and he’s at least a bright spot for the Vols for sure.
The defensive line played a lot better than they did against Kentucky and Alabama.
Linebackers = B
Solid game tonight; the linebackers played hard and weren’t the worst unit on the field tonight. Henry To’o To’o picked up two TFL, and a quarterback hurry and Quavaris Crouch actually had a pass defended.
Deandre Johnson was on my list of players to watch, and tonight, Johnson showed up, grabbing a sack and a tackle for a loss. Linebackers played decently tonight. I can’t blame them for this loss.
Secondary = F
Another game, another situation where a quarterback completes above 70% of his passes, throws three touchdowns. The best player for the defensive backfield was Theo Jackson; he grabbed 10 tackles and one tackle for a loss.
Jackson was easily the best player in the defensive backfield. The rest of Tennessee’s defensive backfield gave up a lot of long plays in the second half, including plays of 59 yards and 56 yards.
Overall = C
Anytime a team holds the opposing team to 24 points, I consider it an average performance. It’s hard to blame the rest of the defense for the failures of the defensive backfield and offense.
Kicking Game = A
Brent Cimaglia went 2-for-2 for a 50-yard kick, he was an absolute beast tonight, and I refuse to blame him for the loss. Paxton Brooks went out, booted the ball well, averaged 45.7 yards per kick, and had a 54-yard boot.
Kick Returners = C
Gray and Velus Jones Jr didn’t get to do much tonight. Usually, one of them will get a scamper or two for a few extra yards, but tonight they didn’t.
Overall = B
Not a bad night for the special teams, but an overall bad night for the rest of the team.
Head Coach = F
Coach Jeremy Pruitt failed to put in a competent quarterback after Maurer showed he wasn’t on tonight. Instead, Pruitt trotted him out for a second time, and straight up got outcoached.
If this team wants to win another game this season, it needs Pruitt to make better decisions and plan for Bailey’s future.
Offensive Coordinator = F
Goodness gracious, what was Jim Chaney thinking? Ah yes… The classic run the ball for three plays and punt five times in a row strategy. Poor play calling from Chaney lost the Volunteers the game tonight. Had Chaney and Pruitt put Bailey out there against the Razorbacks, Tennessee may have had a better chance.
Defensive Coordinator = C
Not too bad. Not great, but the Volunteers held Arkansas to 24 points, which isn’t something to brag about, but it doesn’t raise any red flags for the Volunteers.
Overall = F
Not blaming the defensive coordinator for this one; this loss was because of Chaney and Pruitt. Tennessee needs to make a change at the quarterback position next weekend if they want a fighting chance in its next four games.