Tennessee is now 2-0 and its tussle with the Sycamores is in the past.
The game was under control from the opening kickoff, thanks to a 91-yard touchdown return by true freshman Ty Chandler. Here are the major points of interest.
RUN DEFENSE: Tennessee looks very suspect against any kind of edge running, whether it is a screen, sweep or the well-documented triple option horror show in Atlanta. To put it bluntly, the Vols may be in significant trouble when they finally line up against SEC talent. Yes, they held Indiana State to 7 points, but the writing is on the wall. On a play-to-play basis, the run defense looks confused, easily blocked and only really supported by above-average contributions from Darell Taylor, Daniel Bituli and Colton Jumper. Freshmen Deandre Jordan and Will Ignont got into the mix late and showed some fire, but Tennessee needs all hands on deck NOW.
FLIRTING WITH DISASTER: It is this writer’s opinion that Butch Jones and company blew a big opportunity not just to develop depth, but to protect the health of the 1’s. John Kelly, the core and leader of the offense, was taking serious hits well after Indiana State was out of this game. Dormady, Callaway, McKenzie and large swaths of the defense recklessly stayed on the field throughout the game. The phantom of losing Cam Sutton to Ohio should’ve insisted that, at 28-0, the critical contributors to this team should’ve had their helmets taken. Obviously, Jones wasn’t forced to pay for their brazen personnel decisions, but those kinds of decisions furrow the brow.
QUARTERBACK AND FORTH: One particular area where the staff’s unwillingness to rotate talent was the position of peak fan intrigue: the Quarterback. If Dormady is Tennessee’s #1 guy, there’s no reason for him to walk onto the field again after 28-0 without an opposing score. If an extra 1.5 quarters against a badly outmatched FCS opponent was important enough to risk his health, then the Vols should feel pretty stressed heading to Gainesville. One would think that developing quality depth would be most paramount at quarterback heading into a game like Florida, where the defense will be quite aggressive, but the two warm up games for SEC play are now gone. Red shirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano has clearly visible physical talents, but also seemed like a few more series might have gone a long way in his comfort and confidence.
Meanwhile, Dormady didn’t look great often, but you can see it from time to time. He definitely looks like the best QB on the roster at this time.
G MEN: UT has now played the full slate of 2017 running back’s and the results Coach Gillespie gets from his men is impressively consistent. They run hard, they run mean as hell, they all get good pad level, and, they are very hard to bring down. The Vols are four, maybe five-deep with game ready talent at this position. Coach G may be the team’s most successful and most valuable assistant. It’s going to be harder and harder to keep him around.
TRASHED CAN: Shame on you if you contributed to the outcry that ruined Tennessee’s turnover trashcan magic. That thing just sat quietly by itself all day. This is why we can’t have nice things. (Yes, I know Tennessee didn’t have any opportunities to use it, but you still ruined it.)
All in all, Tennessee did what was expected, dispatching of Indiana State by convincing margin. But, the reason you play this game is for development, and in that respect, the UT staff kinda just blew it. Tennessee is already coping with losing their offensive leader in Jauan Jennings and defensive leader in Darrin Kirkland Jr. Today’s flavor of recklessness against a meaningless opponent in a blowout doesn’t give fans much confidence in the decision makers on the sidelines. Real football begins now, and fans will finally get to see what kind of team 121 really is when the big boy pants go on next Saturday at 3:30PM in Gainesville.
Tennessee Indiana State game recap