Saturday was disappointing on a variety of fronts, but it would be super, super easy to go all Chicken Little, and say the sky was falling. Bad things happen, adversity happens, and injuries happen. Tyler Bray is out for a while. Broken thumb. No way we see him the rest of this month. Maybe we’ll see him in Fayetteville, but if not. He’ll probably pop back up in time for Vandy and Kentucky. It appears Tauren Poole has a torn hamstring, so his career might be over, which is unfortunate for him and the team. I hate to see those kinds of injuries. The first half was awesome. We played toe-to-toe with Georgia, it was entertaining, and Neyland was ROCKING! It was everything I hoped it would be….until the first possession of the second half, and then everything changed.
Surprisingly after two nights of sleep, I can think of lots of good things. (Be prepared for a couple of shots of sunshine Vol fans). Devrin Young. On 4 kick returns he had 108 yards. Not too shabby, he had two punt returns for 19 more, and on one of those he lost 2 yards. Think back to a year ago, when we stuck Anthony Anderson back there to just wave his arm in the air. UT was in dire need of a quality punt returner and we found one in the young Freshman from Bearden High.
Marlin Lane. Mr. Lane is really going to need to step his game up with Tauren Poole out. He wasn’t great running the ball (see below), but he was a great weapon out of the backfield, and he showed impressive athleticism on his touchdown that was called back. We needed those kinds of athletes back in Knoxville. Give Coach Dooley some time. They’re coming.
Mike Rivera has turned into a certified target for Matt Simms. The two best UT tight ends of all time are Jason Witten and Luke Stocker. Rivera may never get there, but off the top of my head I can’t think of anybody else better than him right now. Simms will need him, and right soon.
Defense against the run. Isaiah Crowell came in with all kinds of hype. He had 19 carries for 58 yards and 2 TDs. Only his second touchdown run was impressive. (The first one was maybe half a yard). We haven’t seen anybody gash the Vols up the middle yet. (I hope I can still type that sentence in two weeks).
Again, the entire running game. Our tailbacks had 16 carries for 22 yards. That’s sad. Throw in the sacks, and for the second time this year Tennessee had negative yardage on the ground.
Our DBs. Our corners got burned late. Dooley said he left Marsalis Teague and Izauea Lanier in 1 on 1 situations because the safeties needed to help against the run. Well. unfortunately the safeties needed to help the corners too. They both got burned on separate occasions.
Penalties. Two pass-interference calls on third down prolonged drives, and we had two costly intentional grounding calls.
The kickers. Mike Palardy was the #1 kicking recruit out of high school. He isn’t kicking like that right now. Thank you Lane Kiffin and your inability to see anything except stars…which leads us to:
Coaching turnovers, and fans bitching about Dooley. Look I am not any happier with Saturday’s results than you are. But two coaching changes leaves no depth. Are Justin Hunter, Da’Rick Rogers, and Tyler Bray, Jacques Smith, Malik Jackson, Prentiss Waggner legitimate SEC talents? Yep. What’s behind them? Freshman, who we can’t honestly judge yet, and lots of good kids who aren’t legitimate SEC talents. Zach Rogers might be a great kid. But he’s not an adequate backup to Hunter. Eric Gordon has flashes of brilliance, but he shouldn’t be on the field much. Alex Bullard is starting. Should he really be? But what’s behind him? Freshman. Smart money says Bullard isn’t starting next year. Patience Vol fans. Patience. It’s hard, but like bamboo, one day it’ll stun you.