Vols Grades For Oklahoma Game


As far as I am concerned grading the University of Tennessee performance in Norman this past Saturday is like grading a pre-SAT or pre-ACT exam, but here are the Vols grades for the Oklahoma game. The reason for this statement is that there was no chance this was going to end in a Win for Tennessee, but it is great preparation for the gauntlet they will face the rest of the season in the SEC.

I thought the Vols did everything they were expected to do, only they did it better than I personally expected. The defensive effort was simply outstanding. That sounds funny after getting beat 34-10, but 7 of those Sooner points were scored by their defense. The Vols continued to give the ball to Oklahoma time after time on or near the Sooner 40, and only gave up the 27 points with that field position. Unbelievable heart on this team!

Offensively, the Vols sputtered as expected. The young Vol Offensive line was overwhelmed, but fought mouthpiece and cleat on every snap. Justin Worley was hit more than Rocky Balboa. I was expecting a “Cut Me Mick” every time he went to the sideline, but he stood in against the fiercest pass rush he will face this season.

The Running backs had no where to run early. They continued to battle into the second half where they began to have success, not because substitutes were put in by Oklahoma, but because holes were there and they hit those holes hard.

The receivers battled every play with a very good secondary. This group is my favorite, and I will be a little harder on these guys because of that I guess. I think they could have been a little better as a group. They had a few drops that they won’t drop again, and in a game like this, they could not afford any drops. Touchdowns and first downs were dropped. This group is better than what they showed in my opinion, but again they blocked, they ran strong routes, and they were where they were supposed to be.

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  • One thing that you will learn by my comments is that I hate the Offense Mike Bajakian runs. I hate the read option. I don’t know if it is because I feel like it doesn’t fit our quarterback (which I don’t think it is), or if it is the fact that I love the pro style I formation so much. That does not mean I do not respect this coach. I know he understands it, and that is what is important.

    I just don’t understand it yet and I readily admit that. I don’t understand the blocking scheme, what they are trying to accomplish, and what they are trying to set up next. So I am just not comfortable with it and cringe every time we hand off (which is a 99.9% chance since the quarterback will not keep) and run horizontal to the line of scrimmage. I just don’t think it can work….ever.

    So with that said, here are my grades for what it is worth.

    Offensive Line – B – I know, I know. They were run over, run around, and run through. Again, these guys have no experience, and two of them were playing on Friday night at your local high school field this time last year. Saturday they were playing soon to be NFL Senior and Junior Lineman from Oklahoma. So if nothing else I give them above average for fighting like they did. They could have quit since they were being embarrassed on some plays. Never saw any quit. If you have a problem with the grade, I suggest you put on a helmet and try to step in front of Striker. B for effort and for No penalties.

    Running Backs – B – Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane had a tough first half. However, they stood in and blocked in the passing game fairly well. Hurd had a great run on a screen and Lane had a few tough yards. The running game softened in the the second half and both backs ran hard. Hurd showed the nation why he was a 5 Star running back, and served notice to the SEC. Both backs took physical abuse, and both handed it back to Oklahoma in the latter stages of the game.

    Quarterback – A – Justin Worley was a man on Saturday. He stood tall and did what he could do to help Tennessee Win Saturday. He had a few throws he would like back like the 100 yard interception, but for the most part he did exactly what he was supposed to do. He locks on receivers and that is a fact. Most college quarterbacks do. He did that at Oklahoma, but threw the ball well enough to get the throws to his receivers before the Sooner defenders could get to them. He had a td taken away from him that went through my man Jason Croom’s hands, and he hit Josh Smith with a nice TD early. If he would have kept the ball at least one time, I would have given him an A+.  He has to keep the ball a few times.

    Receivers – C… for them. I just think this group is as good as it gets, and I don’t care where they go or who they play, they should dominate. Marquez North is an NFL receiver in the making. He had a good game despite being held many times. Josh Smith played well, and his injury late is like someone punching me in the gut. I have really gained respect for him. Last year he couldn’t catch a cold, this year he looks unstoppable. Jason Croom is the guy we need to be a threat. He can be if he just catches the ball a little better. Josh Malone will be a star by the end of this season. He had a few nice catches as well, and is about to get a whole bunch more looks with both Smith and Pearson hobbling on gimpy ankles.

    Defensive Line – A – Are you kidding me? Owen and Jordan Williams, Derek Barnett and Cory Vereen played out of their minds against the Sooners. They were playing what would be the 2nd largest offensive line in the NFL, and made play after play on the Oklahoma running backs and quarterback. Outstanding effort, and outstanding game plan.

    Linebackers A – AJ Johnson is getting better. That is scary. He makes it look easy, unless you are an opposing running back. Reeves-Maybin is unbelievable in all aspects. These guys were everywhere. I know we gave up points, but again based on where Oklahoma started field position, this defense was stellar.

    Secondary – A – Cam Sutton is on every highlight show in America this week. He turned an Oklahoma receiver inside out and had him walking back with his chin strap around his nose. He is fantastic, and played great with the exception of one bad play. Coleman had another solid game as did Randolph. Kelly again showed that he can play safety at this level. Some questioned his speed, but he has plenty. I believe I saw Michael Williams have a good game as well. Solid performance!

    Coaching – A with exceptions… I give the defensive game plan an A plus. These guys were prepared as well as they can be prepared. We are dealing with physical limitations of having freshman, not mental limitations of having freshman. They just aren’t as strong physically right now, but they were in position to make plays. Offensively I am biased as stated earlier. Didn’t like our plan there at all.  I thought ( and wrote about it prior to game) that we would have to screen Oklahoma to take the heat off of Worley. We did twice, once it went for 30. A shuffle pass would have helped Worley out and would have given Hurd more opportunity, but we don’t have that in our offense. I think we have a lot of work to do there, but the discipline Bajakian has with his offense is amazing.

    So there it is in a nutshell. Outmanned, but a great performance and I sense a new dawn of Tennessee Football. Hope is back in Knoxville.