Butch Jones and the Tennessee Volunteers (3-3, 0-3 SEC) lost 15-9 to the South Carolina Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2 SEC) in Neyland Stadium on Saturday. Jones remains winless against Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp and marks the second straight loss to South Carolina coming off a bye week for the Vols.
Here are five takeaways from Tennessee’s heartbreaking loss.
1. Jarrett Guarantano shows promise
In his first career start as a Tennessee Vol, Guarantano did not disappoint. His stats weren’t overly impressive, as he had just 133 yards on 11-of-18 passing, but his mobility was clearly something the Vols offense was missing. Guarantano didn’t get much help from his offensive line, as he was sacked seven times, but it’s clear that he can be a special player with a better offensive scheme fixed around him. In light of everything swirling around the Tennessee football program, Guarantano is a breath of fresh air for Vols fans.
2. Tennessee needs to get better in the red-zone
The Volunteers red-zone problems have continually cost them scoring opportunities, with no better example than Saturday’s game. Tennessee made four appearances in the red-zone, and came out with just three field goals. The last time the Volunteers scored a touchdown was in the second quarter of the UMass game in week four. It is unacceptable for this to happen considering the talent Tennessee has on offense. This especially puts a ton of pressure on the Vols defense which has continually suffered from the offense’s poor play.
3. Defense is not the problem
Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop’s defense has continued to be the strong suit for the team. However, they have repeatedly been let down by the inefficient Volunteer offense who has yet to show it can score touchdowns consistently. Defensive backs Rashaan Gaulden and Nigel Warrior have been the glue of the Tennessee defense, as they tallied 19 combined tackles in Saturday’s loss. The Vols defense got gashed on the ground, but looked promising against the talented arm of Jake Bentley. Overall, the Tennessee defense has carried the team, and will have to continue to do so.
4. Tennessee’s offensive line is struggling
Before the start of the 2017 season, the Volunteers offensive line was primed to be one of the best units on the team. Fast-forward to week seven, and the Tennessee offensive line is one of the most inconsistent groups on the field. Even though this is largely due to injury and struggles with depth, the offensive line has made it difficult for the offense to execute in recent weeks. The Volunteers offensive line gave up seven sacks, and led running John Kelly to just over three yards-per-carry.
5. Butch Jones is in huge trouble
Just one season after infamously losing to South Carolina coming off of a bye week, Jones has once again fallen to Muschamp and the Gamecocks after two weeks of preparation. Guarantano getting the start may have stirred up some excitement from the Tennessee fan base, but they haven’t forgotten Jones’ shortcomings. Neither have recruits either, four-star running back Lyn-J Dixon re-opened his recruitment following the Vols 15-9 loss on Saturday. It is no secret at this point, Butch Jones has lost the fan base, and possibly his job.
Edited by Ben McKee
Feature image courtesy of UT Sports