This was essentially an open book test for Tennessee. East Tennessee State was no real threat to give the Tennessee Vols any semblance of grief. Yet, the Vols looked sluggish early. But, after a lightning delay (yes, another one), the home team came out of the tunnel on fire. Here are the grades for each position.
Jarrett Guarantano and Keller Chryst combined for 11-of-16 passing for 224 yards. Chryst had the only touchdown between the two. During the first possession of the fourth quarter, he connected with Jordan Murphy for a 50-yard bomb. The graduate transfer from Stanford completed all three passes attempted. Guarantano saw the most action going 8-of-13 for 154 yards. The passing game wasn’t heavily utilized, but both quarterbacks made the most of what action they did see.
Running Backs: A+
The best grade of the day goes to the running back corps. Tim Jordan led the way with 65 yards on 15 carries. Jeremy Banks was a surprise on Saturday. The true freshman looked like a power back that has promise for this year, not just the future. He finished with 62 yards and two touchdowns. Madre London even saw some action in the end zone with two scores himself.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: A
This group did not disappoint for a second straight game. They saw less action in the passing game, but showed reliability yet again. Marquez Callaway continues to be the primary target. He led the way with 75 yards on five receptions. Josh Palmer scored on a 20-yard reverse. Other than a 12-yard reception from Dominick Wood-Anderson, the tight ends were not utilized. Solid performance overall.
Offensive Line: C+
How do you flirt with failing an open book test? Ask this unit. The first 18 minutes of the game were abysmal for the offensive line. After the weather delay, every unit seemed to get on the same page. The O-line improved throughout the game. The Vols started having success by attacking the edge. However, their efficiency between the trenches remains a huge problem. They struggled with blocking assignments and pushing the defensive front even against lowly ETSU. Progress was made, but this should have been an easy A for this squad.
Defensive Line: A
It’s a solid “A” for this group. Junior college transfer Emmit Gooden was a pleasant surprise. The Brownsville, Tenn. native had eight total tackles, three for loss and a sack. Kyle Phillips was very disruptive in limited time. The senior had two pass deflections, one of which resulted in a pick-six. Most importantly, many guys saw action and contributed to a defense that held ETSU to under 200 yards.
Daniel Bituli and Darrin Kirkland, Jr. continue to be a force on defense. Bituli stuffed a play on the first snap. Kirkland followed with a TFL on the second. He also had an interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter. Several players saw action for this group as well. Will Ignont had five total tackles, while Shanon Reid had three.
Defensive Backs: A+
This is the most improved unit. Bryce Thompson led this group with four tackles, two for loss and an interception. This group showed much better tackling habits, albeit against lesser competition. Yet, they showed more fight and attacked the ball more consistently. Nigel Warrior added four tackles.
Special Teams: A-
Brent Cimaglia scored his first field goal by connecting from 26 yards. That was his lone attempt. Marquill Osborne sparked what was then a dull performance by blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown in the first quarter. Joe Doyle had a much better average on Saturday. He averaged 45.7 yards per punt on three attempts. His long was 52. Paxton Brooks landed five touchbacks on 10 kickoffs. The true freshman also saw one punt attempt go for 34 yards.