Well, it happened. Tennessee wrapped up their historically bad season Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium against their in-state rivals from Nashville. The Commodores came out swinging, taking down the Volunteers and giving them their worst ever single season record ever at 4-8. Even with the loss Saturday wasn’t a complete fail for the Volunteers, here are five things that we learned from the 42-24 final Saturday.
1) Young receivers are good and still developing:
All season long we have seen the growth and development of Tennessee’s young receivers, and Saturday was more of the same. Sophomore WR Brandon Johnson caught six passes for 107 yards and Marquez Callaway had a Sportcenter top-10 one-handed TD catch early in the first quarter. The Volunteers will need an additional receiver to stand out this offseason with the dismissal of Jauan Jennings, but it looks like the Volunteers may have a legitimate receiving core heading into next season.
2) Vols need more leadership:
Despite having interim coach Brady Hoke at the helm, this Tennessee team should have been able to compete against Vanderbilt on talent alone. The lack of leadership on this team needs major offseason improvements, and it starts with the returning starters.
That being said, the post game press conference had some positive moments. Jarrett Guarantano and true freshman Trey Smith took the stand saying that the culture of Tennessee football needed to be changed. “We need to be great leaders both on the field and in the locker room,” Smith said. “That starts with us, and if people don’t like it, they can go somewhere else, this hurts and it is supposed to but we’ve got to come back stronger.”
3) Guarantano has developed nicely:
Guarantano had his best performance of the season on Saturday afternoon, going 14-of-22 for 183 yards and two touchdowns. The young quarterback looked poised at time, delivering the ball downfield to multiple targets. Guarantano looks to be a completely different quarterback than the one we saw against Georgia Tech. Lets just hope he can continue to develop at this rate all offseason.
4) Offensive line needs work:
Well this seems to be something the Volunteers can file under constantly needs improvement. The Vols have struggled to piece together a solid five on the offensive line for years. By now we all know that true freshman Trey Smith is an animal in the trenches and Saturday was no different, but who else can step up this offseason on the line? If the Volunteers continue to struggle like they did on Saturday if could be another long season in 2018.
5) Defense needs a lot of offseason improvement:
42 points to Vanderbilt is really all that needs to be said here. The Volunteers secondary looked like they had more holes than Swiss cheese and the d-line looked to be playing a completely different game than what was happening on the field. With all the talk about Shoop’s defense last offseason, the performance on the field lacked all year. If the Volunteers are smart, they’ll look into a major overhaul on the defensive side of the ball this offseason and hopefully return to the promise land.
Edited by Ben McKee
Feature image courtesy of Sumner Gilliam