Tennessee was scheduled another mid-major level team in Arkansas State Saturday. There were a lot of positives coming from Tennessee’s week 1 victory over Utah State, but weaknesses were evident especially along the offensive line, so Butch Jones knew he couldn’t take this game lightly.
Arkansas State struck first and looked very sharp on their first drive. Especially quarterback Fredi Knighten, who finished with 166 yards passing with one touchdown and 81 yards rushing with one touchdown. From then on, it was all Tennessee. The Vols scored 17 unanswered points, thanks mostly to Quarterback Justin Worley.
Worley went 22-38 with 247 yards with one interception and two touchdowns, both to Marquez North. He looked like an entirely new player compared to last season. He is now comfortable in the pocket, knowledgeable of the offense and making safe, accurate throws.
Von Pearson was another weapon that Justin Worley had fun with today. He had four catches for 71 yards including a 56 yard catch where Pearson got to show off his athletic ability. Unfortunately, Pearson was hurt the very next drive when his ankle got caught under teammate Pig Howard and a defender. The early diagnosis is a high ankle sprain, but there has been no other news concerning him and his status for next week.
Marquez North had a breakout day, finishing with four catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns, doubling his touchdown total from last year. Ethan Wolf was also another receiver Worley used to his advantage, as a check-down when no one else could break free. He had five catches for 20 yards until he hyperextended his knee in the second half. His status for next week is also unknown.
Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane were both given a fair amount of touches as well. Marlin Lane had 13 carries for 54 yards, averaging just over four yards a carry. But he really never seemed able to break off any good runs except on one 18 yard carry, probably due to the inexperience on the offensive line.
Hurd was given 23 carries and was able to rush for 87 yards on those, including one touchdown. He struggled during the early going, but as he started to take over the majority of touches in the backfield later in the game, he really seemed to become more comfortable and as a result, ran better.
A.J. Johnson once again stood out on the defensive side of the ball for Tennessee. He had nine total tackles and was a presence on passing downs as well specifically on fourth down in the second half, where Arkansas State tried to convert and A.J. Johnson was able to make a coverage read, knock a pass down and give his team the ball.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin also had another good game today. Last year, he was a special teams standout, but this year he locked up a starting spot at linebacker. In week one against Utah State, he had 10 tackles and was a noticeable force on the defensive end and on Saturday, he added six more tackles to his season total. He’s reading plays well as a defender and making tackles that not everyone could.
Tennessee travels to Oklahoma next week to take on the Sooners. This is the second time this year the young Vols will be playing under the primetime lights, but this time, it will be against a much more formidable opponent. This game starts a three game stretch where Tennessee will be playing some of the hardest teams on their schedule. They have to face Oklahoma and Georgia on the road and then a new Florida team on their home field.
Edited by Will Lomas