Tennessee narrowly defeated UMass 17-13 on Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium. The Vols were heavy favorites over the Minutemen, but turned in a lackluster performance. With Georgia around the corner, it’s imperative Tennessee has a strong week of practice in order to correct its mistake. Here are the five biggest takeaways as to why the Vols turned in a poor performance against UMass.
1) Butch Jones has no idea what to do at quarterback
I understand why Butch Jones and staff would want to get Guarantano some reps in this game. However, the Vols had finally found some-what of an offensive rhythm with Dormady under center building as they built a 17-6 lead. As the Vols wanted to extend the lead and provide a cushion, Jones decides to swap quarterbacks, a puzzling decision. The timing of the move is what is puzzling. Why not come out, and open up the second half with Guarantano under center when the Volunteers needed a spark the most? Having two talented quarterbacks on the roster is a good problem to have, but Jones needs to manage the situation better going forward.
2) The offensive line and defensive line need to step up
A much smaller UMass defensive line bullied the Vols offensive line all afternoon on Saturday. The Minutemen came into this game giving up and average of 186 yards on the ground, and Tennessee only rushed for 135. I am not one to often put blame on one particular group for a poor overall team performance, but on Saturday, Tennessee’s offensive line looked bad enough to throw off the whole offensive game plan.
Tennessee’s defensive line was also nowhere to be found at times during the game. While the Volunteers had seven sacks and 15 tackles for loss, they also gave up 144 rushing yards to UMass. The Minutemen have averaged just two-yards per carry so far in 2017.
3) John Kelly should be a Heisman candidate
Kelly had himself a day on Saturday, racking up 101 rushing yards on 25 carries. Saturday’s performance is the third time Kelly has surpassed 100 rushing yards this season. Through four games, Kelly has 460 rushing yards and six touchdowns, as well as 191 receiving yards. The junior leads the SEC in rushing yards and touchdowns. As if that’s not enough to at least mention him in the Heisman debate; I’m not really sure what is.
4) Tennessee has options to replace Jauan Jennings
Tennessee had already found a replacement for Jennings with the emergence of sophomore wide receiver Marquez Callaway, but the coaching staff may have found another serious threat at the position. Brandon Johnson had a big game on Saturday, catching seven passes for 123 yards including a 66-yard pass from Dormady that set up the Vols first touchdown. At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Johnson has the frame to be an elite receiver, especially if he can continue to develop his footwork and route running.
5) This Tennessee team has no quit
The Vols were a 28-point favorite in Neyland Stadium on Saturday and only ended up with a narrow three-point victory. It seems as if the Vols will continue to play to the caliber of their opponents under Butch Jones, as it has happened for years now. The Volunteers show up ready to play against a quality opponent, but continue to struggle to play mistake free football against a team of lower quality. Despite the score on the field, players continue to give their all for Tennessee.
Feature image courtesy of UT Sports
Edited by Ben McKee