Vols
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The season is now two weeks old, and some things across the country are becoming abundantly clear. Some teams are emerging as contenders, while others are proving that some of their preseason hype may have been unwarranted. There have been good games, bad games, crazy games and boring games. We’ve already had coach explosions, Hail Mary wins, clock mismanagement and second-half meltdowns. College football has arrived in all of its expected glory, and the landscape is starting to come into focus.

But who cares about the college football landscape right now? The Vols are 2-0 and still haven’t played good football!

Let’s start from the beginning and arrive at the present…

Appalachian State:

I’m not going to spend much time on this one. This game was an amnesia game. Forget it. Coaches would never actually do it in this day and age, but this was the type of game where you just burn the film and move on. Tennessee came out flat and stayed basic in their scheme…a recipe for disaster against an undervalued opponent with a pulse – and App State has much more than a pulse, as I think Miami will find out this weekend.

The offensive line struggled, specifically Coleman Thomas, and the entire team slept walked through the first two quarters. The coordinators failed to find their respective rhythms, and the team needed a few lucky bounces to escape with a game-one win.

Say what you want, and it WAS bad, but there are a lot of teams *cough* Oklahoma State *cough* who would give anything to have won an ugly football game as ugly as the one Tennessee did in week one. Survive and advance.

The Battle at Bristol – Periphery: 

I tweeted some thoughts on this game in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, but what an absolute spectacle this thing turned out to be. The entire environment was a sight to behold from Friday morning through Saturday night, as it truly was college football’s version of Woodstock.

The sheer magnitude of the event, from sight lines to parking lots, traffic jams to tailgates, fans in the stands to the actual size of the stadium itself – all of it – was like nothing I had ever seen before, and I wish that every Tennessee fan had been able to experience the goings on that took place in upper East Tennessee on Saturday night. It had a magic feel to it, almost dreamlike.

The stadium itself is nestled neatly betwixt the rolling foothills of the Smoky Mountains, yet is surrounded by a relatively flat landscape that perfectly lent itself to the rowdy tailgating scene of major southern college football.

And the tailgating scene was top-notch…

These were my friends two spots over in the Short Cut Lot, due west of Bristol Motor Speedway. They had a great time and were, as I would put it, respectfully annoying to Virginia Tech fans as they made their way to the stadium throughout the day. If this is what I saw, I can only imagine some of the things that other fans were witnessing throughout the day as we got closer and closer to kickoff.

All in all, this game was a complete success from an event standpoint and I would hope that Tennessee can add another game there in the future so that those who missed out could have the opportunity to experience it.

Battle at Bristol – Game: 

It was, as my friend Blake Rainey put it, A Tale of Two Quarters. Another slow start by Tennessee, but they really turned it on in the second quarter and pretty much cruised to a huge win for Tennessee football from an historical standpoint. 45-24 will look good in the record books, so that’s good.

HOWEVER…

The final score also has a fool’s-gold-feel to me. Tennessee didn’t play well. They took advantage of the breaks given to them by Tech, and they played decent in certain spots, but this was far from a complete game.

Let’s go position-by-position…

  • O-Line: Coleman Thomas and Jashon Robertson are really struggling right now…which, frankly, doesn’t make a lot of sense considering how well they have played in the past. The substitutions against VT were great moves by the coaching staff, but how has this group regressed with two OL coaches on the staff in DeBord and Mahoney? They’ll need to get much better in a hurry if Tennessee plans on keeping UGA and Florida out of Atlanta. Jack Jones should start. Period. I don’t really care where, either. He just has to be on the field.
  • Running back: Due to the OL struggles, this group is still in the middle of a slow start to the season based on expectations. Both Hurd and Kamara are doing their jobs to the best of their ability, but are currently suffering from a lack of blocking and a lack of touches. This needs to get fixed. Jalen Hurd is running hard, but needs more space to really get going, and Alvin Kamara is being woefully underutilized so far. It’s time for DeBord to get creative.
  • Receivers/Tight Ends: This was never going to be an air-assault offense, but I still think this group is struggling with consistency. They know how to run routes, but not how to “get open” and that concerns me. They are robotic and stiff in their routes and lack any creativity between the snap and the throw. Malone needs more deep targets – as does Preston Williams – and Josh Smith needs to get going. This group is talented en0ugh to provide the production that this team needs this season, but they need more opportunities to cut it loose.
  • Quarterback: He isn’t Peyton Manning. He’s Joshua Dobbs and he is Tennessee’s best chance to win football games this year. His ability to create when his line fails him is something that the other quarterbacks on the roster just aren’t capable of right now…at least not to level that he is. He’s throwing catchable deep balls and he’s a dynamic, gritty runner. If people around him can raise their level of play, Joshua Dobbs could do some special things.
  • D-Line: The addition of Shy Tuttle back into the rotation is a huge boost for this group. He adds dynamic playmaking ability to a solid rotation at tackle with O’Brien, Vickers and McKenzie, and that should free up the defensive ends even more to make plays. Speaking of the defensive ends…ummm…When do they show up? Derek Barnett, Corey Vereen, Johnathon Kongbo and LaTroy Lewis haven’t been bad thus far, but they haven’t been overly disruptive either (one sack among the our of them). Tennessee needs these guys to impact the game more moving forward, bottom line.
  • Linebackers: JRM is JRM and very, very good. But Darrin Kirkland’s injury at middle linebacker is a huge loss for this defense. What Butch Jones and Bob Shoop decide to do at that position moving forward will have an enormous impact on the ultimate success of the season. Colton Jumper is a fine kid and a good American, but if he’s Tennessee best option at middle linebacker when SEC play starts, then there will be some serious problems.
  • Secondary: This group has played pretty well, but haven’t really had a team test them through the air yet. Virginia Tech hit some slants that were concerning, and had a deep play available against Cam Sutton with a better throw, but this group has tackled pretty well and gotten their hands/helmets on the football with some consistency. We’ll know plenty about this group in two weeks.

This team got better between weeks one and two, but inconsistencies along the lines and slow starts are at least causes for concern at this point. The fact that Tennessee played mediocre football and beat Virginia Tech by three touchdowns is a testament to talent, so if they can put it all together( coaches and players) then any game on the schedule is winnable.

Hope for a healthy tune-up game this weekend and then a great week of preparation for next Saturday when Florida comes to town.

#MMEB:

Michigan Men Eat Boogers.

And then they lie about it…

I am formally calling for Jim Harbaugh’s termination as the Head Football Coach at the University of Michigan. This type of behavior is unacceptable and should be met swiftly with the necessary punishment. Jerry Seinfeld received much harsher criticism for merely SCRATCHING his nose. This type of injustice simply cannot stand!

Do the right thing, Michigan. Do it for Jerry.

Way-Too-Early Heisman vote:

Lamar Jackson. He’s MILES ahead…for now.

This guy is playing like an absolute freak. He was one rushing yard away, ONE YARD, against Syracuse from being the first quarterback in history to throw for over 400 yards and rush for over 200 in a single game.

They get FSU in Louisville this weekend, so let’s see if the ‘Nole can at least make him look like a human being instead of the super hero he’s been through two weeks. Get your money’s worth out of the DVR and watch him if you get the chance.

2017 Schedule:

I know that we aren’t even knee-deep into the 2016 season, but this schedule looks very favorable for the Vols in what should be a slight rebuilding year. There’s a built in tune-up game before every major challenge on the schedule. If the Vols had this schedule this year, mercy.

That LSU draw is an interesting one right now. What will LSU be in a year? Who’s coaching them? Outside of Mississippi State, though, and maaaaaybe Auburn, they are probably the safest draw from the west in 2017.

Unless they get Tom Herman. Which would be the most Tennessee thing ever.

Game Balls:

Congrats to Darrell Taylor and Sheriron Jones for becoming Tennessee folk heroes over the weekend in Bristol. Absolutely stunning performances by those two.

*Language Warning*

Good talk, guys. See you again next week.

#WGWTFA