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Trey’s Three-Point Stance: Vols Balanced Offense Leads To 2-0 Start

Tennessee defeated Missouri 35-12 and moved to 2-0 on the season Saturday afternoon. The Vols never gave up the lead after a 14-play, 75-yard opening drive that resulted in a touchdown. The drive was a tone setter, as they used almost five minutes of clock in the methodical drive.

Jeremy Pruitt credited having almost his entire team back to practice, coming off the South Carolina win.

“I’m really proud of our players and our assistant coaches for keeping on finding a way and improving each week. We really had a chance to practice with everybody there this week, so it was a huge bonus for us.”

You’re seeing a coach that is confident in his coaches and players, no matter how young the season is.

Here are my 3 observations from Saturday’s win.

  1. The Vols Have To Get More From The Defensive Line

Tennessee has a good amount of guys with “high motors,” but right now they lack that “monster.” This group can go, but can they knock the QB down multiple times per game? That’s the question. LaTrell Bumphus, Elijah Simmons, Matthew Butler, Kurot Garland and Omari Thomas all saw action on Saturday. But two guys who the Vols are going to need, if they’re going to get any kind of push on the Georgia OL, are Darel Middleton and Aubrey Solomon. Both of these players have dealt with missed practice time over the past six weeks, and it shows. The two defensive linemen combined for just two total tackles.

Now, here’s the obvious: Tennessee is working these guys back into game shape, using the past week for Middleton. The previous week it was Solomon working up his stamina, after missing multiple practices. This isn’t some overnight miracle. It’s going to take repeated reps in practice to get their motors at maximum horsepower. But, Tennessee is going to need these guys to be “monsters” next week in Athens. Did you see the Georgia OL Saturday night?

If Tennessee is going to roll down to Athens and win, they’re going to need Solomon and Middleton to plug the gaps Georgia will try to establish.

2. Where Have The Turnovers Gone?

Tennessee opened the 2019 with a combined four turnovers in their first two games, both losses. In 2020, its been the complete opposite. The Vols have zero turnovers through the opening games against South Carolina and Missouri. Obviously, that’s at least one reason why the Vols have won the last two games and have had a balanced attack in the air and on the ground.

Jarrett Guarantano went 14-of-23 for 190 yards and a TD through the air, while also rushing for two TD’s on sneaks. Guarantano has definitely figured out a new technique for the sneak, which Tennessee fans will gladly take.

On the ground, it was the Eric Gray and Ty Chandler show, with a Jabari Small appetizer. Gray rushed for 105 yards on 16 carries, while Chandler had 90 yards on 19 carries. Both had one touchdown on the ground, while Gray added another off a pass from Guarantano.

As for that “Small” appetizer, the freshman RB might’ve had the most impressive trucking of the day. Small absolutely destroyed a Missouri defender on the first of his four carries, which helped him get to 27 yards on the day.

But did you notice what was missing out of what you just read? Yep, you read it right, Tennessee hasn’t handed anything to their opponents so far this season. This trend needs to continue next week in Athens if they have any chance of winning.

 3. Tennessee More Consistent On 3rd & 4th Down

One thing Tennessee definitely had to work on this past week was situational play-calling. The Vols had a rough night in Columbia last weekend, going 1-of-11 on 3rd downs and 0-of-1 on 4th down. That stat definitely improved against Missouri.

The Vols were 6-of-13 on 3rd down conversions and a perfect 4-of-4 on 4th down. This is definitely a huge step forward in how they were attacking the Missouri defense. Jim Chaney had a nice day with play-calling in pressured situations, especially with Pruitt giving them the green light on 4th down.

You had to think Pruitt was trying to send a message with the way Tennessee was calling plays and deciding to go for three 4th downs in the first quarter. No more playing it safe all the time.

“As far as going for it on fourth down, it’s got to be a mindset. I talked to our team about it. We’re not living in fear. All of these guys came here with all of the unknown. We didn’t know what to expect with this virus. There wasn’t anything that happened in the past to draw upon, so we’re sure not going to play in fear or coach in fear.”

This was a performance that Tennessee can continue to build on. They’ve beaten two teams that fans expected them to beat, with a game looming that fans would love them to beat.

They’ve played good football in the first two games of the 2020 season. But now, to beat Georgia, they have to take it up another notch and “put on more steam” if they expect to be 3-0 this time next weekend.

All images courtesy of Tennessee Athletic Communications 

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