Tennessee Football: What We Liked About Vols’ Win And What We didn’t Like

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 04: John Kelly /

The Tennessee Vols opened the 2017 season with a gritty double overtime win against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Survive and advance.

That sums up the Tennessee Vols’ season opening win against Georgia Tech on Monday night.

1-0 is 1-0, regardless of how you get there. Especially considering that for a while on Monday night it looked like the Vols were going to start 0-1. Fans have to feel fortunate to get out of Atlanta with a win against the Yellow Jackets’ maddening triple option offense.

There were some things to like, and some things to not like, in Monday night’s win for the Volunteers. Here are some thoughts on what we saw.

What I liked: 

Obviously what I liked most about Tennessee’s win was the emergence of wide receiver Marquez Callaway and the strong playing of running back John Kelly.

Callaway displayed an explosiveness and elusiveness that Tennessee hasn’t seen since Cordarrelle Patterson put on a Vol uniform in 2012. Hopefully wide receiver Jauan Jennings won’t be out long, but if he is sidelined for an extended period of time, it’s nice to know that Callaway can be the centerpiece of the passing game.

Kelly was pretty much as advertised in the Vols’ win. He runs hard, between the tackles, and he picks up extra yards. Tennessee has a true weapon in Kelly. He’s also a better receiver than I realized. He only had six receptions in 2016, but he had five last night. That will add another element to the Vols’ offense.

I really liked the way linebackers Daniel Bituli and Colton Jumper played. Both players stepped up in a big way. Jumper actually displayed pretty decent sideline to sideline speed. Georgia Tech’s offense presented a unique challenge, so I’ll be interested to see how they respond to a more traditional offensive attack.

Tennessee’s offensive line actually played pretty well. I’m not sure Marcus Tatum was quite ready to be a starter, but the good news is that Drew Richmond will be back next week. That will allow Brett Kendrick to slide back to right tackle. Either way, it was good experience for Tatum, who will get better.

Another thing that was great to see: the Vols only had two penalties on Monday night and 0 turnovers.

What I didn’t like:

It took the Vols a while to find their offensive rhythm. That can mostly be attributed to a new offensive coordinator and quarterback. There’s also the fact that Tennessee only possessed the ball for 18 total minutes (compared to Georgia Tech’s 41 minutes). It’s tough to find any sort of rhythm when your offense is on the sideline for half the quarter. We should get a better picture of who the Volunteers are offensively on Saturday against Indiana State.

The drops from the receivers early in the game didn’t help the offensive rhythm either. They certainly didn’t help Dormady’s confidence.

Tennessee probably should’ve went to Kelly more often. I know the Vols were trying to get their passing game going, but sometimes you have to ride the hot hand. In the fourth quarter is when the Vols played their best. And that’s when they went to Kelly and Callaway.

Butch Jones’ handling of timeouts at the end of the first half was a complete disaster. But to be fair, this isn’t anything new when it comes to college coaches. I’m not sure any college coach ever effectively uses their timeouts. Tennessee had a chance to at least get a field goal at the end of the first half. But the Vols’ looked completely out of sorts offensively.