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    Photo By Amanda Izzi/Tennessee Athletics

    Tennessee needs more out of its quarterback when it faces off with No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. And they need it for the rest of the season as well.

    The Vols rank among the worst in the SEC when it comes to completing passes downfield. Quinten Dormady’s first five games as starter were average at best on underneath routes, but when Dormady targeted receivers 20 ore more yards down the field, the Vols had no hope.

    College Football Film Room broke down just how bad Dormady was at downfield passing via twitter on Thursday.

    Dormady’s 30.6% completion percentage is among the worst in the conference. Only Florida’s Feleipe Franks and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond has a worse completion percentage on throws of 15 or more yards down the field. The Vols have attempted just as many if not more deep passes than Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama and Florida, but they have a far worse percentage than all of them.

    Two of Dormady’s six interceptions also came on deep balls. Against Georgia, the junior quarterback was 0-for-9 on passes targeted ten or more yards past the line of scrimmage with an interception.

    Jarrett Guarantano has been much better in deeper passes thus far. Despite having little time to throw, the freshman completed most of his passes targeted downfield against South Carolina last week.

    Guarantano was 3-for-4 on targets 20+ yards down the field. The one incompletion was a deep pass batted down at the line of scrimmage by a defensive lineman.

    Guarantano was also 4-for-5 on passes between 10 and 20 yards of the line of scrimmage. Additionally, he completed eight of his nine attempts to the left side of the field as well regardless of distance.

    Tennessee is starting to open up more space down the field for its new starting quarterback. And by moving Brett Kendrick to the right side of the offensive line, Butch Jones is giving Guarantano more blindside protection when he rolls to his left.

    Those new numbers from Guarantano are encouraging, but the sample size is still small. If the offensive line can give the redshirt freshman more protection, Tennessee may be able to move the ball more with long passes moving forward.

      Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

      With how hot Butch Jones’ seat is and the growing anger from Vol fans day in and day out, rumors are plentiful around the Tennessee football program.

      And now a former Vol is stoking the fires in Knoxville.

      Albert Haynesworth, a former standout defensive lineman for the Vols from 1999-2001, has been very outspoken about Tennessee in the past. He was extremely critical of the culture around Tennessee’s football program earlier this season, for example.

      But on Thursday, Haynesworth hinted at some “great news” that could potentially be coming to Tennessee soon.

      Haynesworth took to Twitter on Thursday afternoon to tweet a very cryptic but positive message to Vol fans. Here’s Haynesworth’s tweet:

      Most Vol fans will assume that Haynesworth is referring to a change at head coach for Tennessee. Butch Jones has been on the hot seat for several weeks, and there’s speculation that he could be out as the Vols’ head coach this weekend.

      And if Haynesworth’s tweet is to be believed, the Vols may be in store for a change sooner rather than later.

      Of course, Haynesworth’s tweet could be in reference to any number of things. It may have nothing to do with the head coaching situation at Tennessee. But the timing of it and his mention of one of the Haslams is enough to fuel the speculation that he is, in fact, talking about Butch Jones.

        Record: 7-0
        Conference: SEC
        Head Coach: Nick Saban, 11th season (126-19 overall)
        Team Nickname: Crimson Tide
        Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

        Leading Passer: Jalen Hurts — 82-of-130, 1,025 yards, 8 TDs, 1 INT
        Leading Rusher: Damien Harris — 68 carries, 625 yards, 9 TDs
        Leading Receiver: Calvin Ridley — 33 receptions, 441 yards, 2 TDs

        Alabama is an unstoppable force this season. Their offense is good enough to win games even if their defense was only above average to good.

        But unluckily for Tennessee and every team that’s played the Tide this season, Alabama’s defense is much, much better than just “good.”

        The Tide comes into this game with the top scoring defense in the SEC, and they’re second in the conference in yards allowed per game. They’re only allowing 66.7 rushing yards per game, and they’ve forced 14 turnovers on the season, the second-most in the conference. They also have the best third down defense in the SEC, holding opposing teams to just a 27.1 percent conversion rate.

        None of this is good news to a Tennessee offense that has struggled to put points on the board over the last three games.

        Tennessee comes into this game on a touchdown drought. The Vols haven’t scored a touchdown in 10 quarters dating back to the second quarter of the UMass game. In fact, the Vols have totaled just 26 points over the last three games combined. Meanwhile, they have had 19 offensive drives end in three-and-outs or a turnover in that same stretch.

        Alabama has given up just eight touchdowns all season, and they’ve only allowed three in four SEC games.

        Not only that, but the Vols have one of the worst third down offenses in the entire conference. Tennessee has converted on third down just 34.5 percent of the time. Only Florida (33.3 percent) has a worse percentage in the SEC.

        As if thinking about dealing with Alabama’s defense wasn’t bad enough, the Tide’s offense is formidable as well.

        Tennessee’s defense this season has performed better than expected, especially when it comes to defending the pass. The Vols actually have the best passing defense in the SEC in terms of yards allowed per game (129.2 yards allowed a game). Granted, the Vols haven’t faced many potent passing attacks, but they did make capable passer Jake Bentley for South Carolina look bad last week and held him to his worst performance all season thus far.

        But Alabama’s offense is another monster entirely.

        Alabama has scored more points per game than any other SEC school (42.7), and they’ve outscored conference opponents 193 to 31 in four SEC games this season. No SEC team is averaging more rushing yards per game (302.6) or run for more rushing touchdowns (24) so far this season.

        Quarterback Jalen Hurts is dangerous as a passer because of his offensive line and pass catchers. But he’s even more of a weapon on the ground. Damien Harris leads the team in rushing, but Hurts is second with 558 rushing yards and six scores on just 79 carries.

        Alabama’s offense is more than just Hurts, but he’s the catalyst for everything the Tide want to do. And slowing him down is no easy task.

        Simply put, Tennessee is out-matched in just about every way possible in this game. Alabama’s offense is potent, and their defense is even better than that. Nick Saban has dominated SEC opponents so far this year, and the Vols will be lucky if they can end their touchdown drought in this game.

          Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

          Tennessee has lost three of their last four games and looked listless in their one win against winless UMass in that stretch. And a large part of the reason the Vols have looked so bad in the last month is because of the lack of second half adjustments on the part of Tennessee’s coaching staff.

          The Vols are being out-gained and outscored in the second half this season, and it’s been even worse over the last three games.

          Through the first two games of the season, Tennessee wasn’t having a bad time in the second half. Tennessee dumped on 35 points and 275 yards in the second half and two overtimes against Georgia Tech, and they accumulated 159 yards and 14 points in the second half against Indiana State. In fact, the Vols even performed well in the second half against Florida, totaling 288 yards and 17 points.

          But the last three weeks have seen a massive decline in second half production.

          Against UMass, Tennessee managed just 58 total yards of offense and scored only three points. Over the last two weeks, however, Tennessee has failed to score a single point in the second half against either Georgia or South Carolina, and the Vols totaled 75 yards in the second half in both of those games.

          The Vols have totaled just 208 yards of offense and scored just three points in the second half over their last three games. Meanwhile, Tennessee has given up 537 yards of offense and 36 points to UMass, Georgia, and South Carolina in that same span.

          All in all this season, Tennessee is being out-gained 1,294 to 930 in the second half this season, and they’ve been outscored 90 to 69 in the second half of games this year.

          Second half adjustments, or the lack thereof, have been one of Tennessee’s biggest downfalls this season. The Vols have been beat time and time again after halftime this year, and that comes down to coaching. Plain and simple.

          Tennessee’s opponents have been able to make halftime adjustments and stop whatever is working for the Vols. Butch Jones and his staff, on the other hand, have sorely lacked in that department.

          The Vols’ issues this season are plentiful. It hasn’t all been because of coaching. Poor execution on the offensive line, dropped passes by receivers, poor routes from receivers, inconsistent front seven play on defense, and turnovers from the quarterback position have all contributed to Tennessee’s woes in 2017.

          But coaching has definitely been a big problem. And that’s never more evident than when you look at how badly the Vols have been dominated in the second half over the last three games.

            Photo By Alison P. McNabbTennessee Athletics

            The mailbag is brought to you by Mid Tenn Ford. They are Middle Tennessee’s oldest Ford Dealer, and they offer a full line of Ford Trucks, Vans, SUVS and Crossovers. They have both a light and heavy duty Service Department to get you back on the road when needed. Call 1-888-409-0306 today for your no-obligation price quote from their sales department.

            We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.

            “Reading the tea leaves… Renovations + $14M in buyouts= Year 6. I nailed it, didn’t I?” – Scott

            Nathanael: You may be on to something there, Scott.

            No, I don’t see any scenario at all where Jones is back next season for a sixth year. If that happens, I would be floored.

            Will: I’d say there’s about a 90% chance Butch Jones isn’t Tennessee’s coach that season. The firing should, but may not happen next week. That being said, I don’t see any way he survives this disaster of a season.

            “When is Gruden arriving to coach UT? Follow up: When is Gruden leaving MNF to coach the Vols? Lastly, Gruden?” – @NeylndMafia

            Nathanael: Boy, these Grumors are making everything fun again. They’re much more fun to talk about than the current state of Tennessee football at least.

            Will: Jon Gruden will not only be hired, but will also broadcast his team’s games on ESPN while still coaching from the sideline. It’s the next wave of media.

            “Is Tyler Byrd in Butch’s dog house?” – @river_tennessee

            Nathanael: I honestly have no idea. I want to say “yes” just because I can’t think of any other reason why he’s not being used. At all. On either side of the ball. He’s an extremely talented kid, and it blows my mind that he’s being underutilized so badly like this.

            Will: I think so. He was visibly frustrated after not being targeted at one point against Georgia. Byrd is the best athlete on the wide receiving corps, and the fact that he isn’t getting opportunities is troubling. He needs to be moved to defense.

            “Which will Tennessee have more of on Saturday: 3 and outs or points scored?” – Jason

            Nathanael: Yikes…this isn’t fun to answer. Well, since I only think Tennessee will score between 0-6 points, I’m going to say they’ll have more three-and-outs than points. That will easily be done if they get shut out again, obviously.

            Will: Three-and-outs. Because I think the Vols will have double digit three-and-outs, and there’s no way they score twice unless one or both scores are against backups.

            “Do you think Lane Kiffin is on the vols radar?” – Nicholas

            Nathanael: I don’t think so, no. Is he on Vol fans’ radars? Absolutely. But would Tennessee ever hire him back? I would be truly stunned if so.

            Will: No. Next question.

            “I love Gruden and Jim Bob Cooter rumors. Play along and dream. What appeals to you about that combo?” – Pete

            Nathanael: Okay, I’ll play along (because there’s no way that actually happens). In this scenario, your offense should be explosive. You’d still need to go find a suitable defensive coordinator, but if you’re willing to dump all that money for Gruden and JBC, then finding an elite DC is just a matter of “who” not “how much” at that point.

            Will: It would be incredible. Tennessee would certainly get back to the pro offense, but how would this roster quickly adapt to a brand new scheme that’s the total opposite of what was being run under Butch? The power run game those two would bring is appealing, but so is the quarterback development. Most importantly, it wouldn’t be one dimensional anymore.

            “How do you feel about the idea of 20 wins in basketball this season?” – Shea

            Nathanael: I think it’s very doable. The Vols just got picked to finish 13th in the SEC for this season at SEC Media Day, but I think that’s absurd. Tennessee has a decent amount of unknowns on the roster and have a fairly young team once again, but young teams can contend in basketball much easier than they can in football. Tennessee looked like they could get to 18 or 19 wins last season before injuries caught up with them and they sputtered down the stretch. As long as they avoid a catastrophic injury this season or avoid a litany of injuries, I think 20 wins is definitely within the realm of possibility.

            Will: I think they can certainly get to 20 wins. This team is going to be good. I’ve been on the Rick Barnes hype train for the past couple of seasons, and I said at this time last year that 2017-18 would be the season to finally get back to the tournament. With the additions this team has made to get bigger and deeper, they can live with a few injuries. Unlike past season, the bench is filled with experience. I think they find a way into the NCAA tournament.

              Butch Jones talked to the media on Wednesday for his weekly mid-week availability.

              He updated the status of a few injuries, gave a scouting report on Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, and also addressed some changes on the offensive line.

              Here are our notes from everything Jones had to say.

              Injury Update

              Jones started his press conference by updating the status of multiple injured players, starting with a few starters who have been at practice.

              “Jakob Johnson will play,” Jones said of the senior tight end. “We’re excited to have him back. Evan Berry has been practicing…he’s questionable. Justin Martin will be at practice today. Cheyenne Labruzza will be out for the remainder of the season.”

              A few more players who were out last week will progress in practice as the week continues.

              “Deandre Johnson is questionable. We’ll see where he’s at with practice today,” Jones said of his young defensive end.

              Jones also added that running back Carlin Fils-Aime and corner Justin Martin are both questionable as well.

              He also updated the status of Jauan Jennings, who hasn’t played since the Vols’ season opening win against Georgia Tech.

              “I don’t see Jauan Jennings being back this season,” Jones stated.

              Scouting Alabama

              Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts led the Tide to a massive win in Knoxville last season.

              But he’s come a long way since that game, according to Jones.

              “The thing with Jalen is he can beat you in every aspect,” he said. “He’s really improved…he’s very comfortable in the pocket. He does an excellent jobs with the RPOs and moving the ball down the field.”

              Hurts’ legs aren’t the only weapon though. Jones also raved about Hurts’ arm, emphasizing the importance of keeping him in the pocket when he gets rid of the ball.

              “He’s a very very good quarterback who can make all the throws…with his speed, he turns into a running back. A great, great challenge defensively,” Jones said.

              When Jones looks at Bama’s running backs, he made observations that go beyond the running game.

              Each of their top three backs also play on the special teams unit. And that’s what impresses Jones the most.

              “The thing that’s probably as impressive is his play on special teams. They’re the top three running backs. The value that they bring to their team on special teams as well,” Jones said.

              Guarantano Prepares to Improve on First Start

              Jarrett Guarantano did some good things against South Carolina. But Jones stressed that his freshman quarterback also has to improve.

              That includes pre-snap calls, where Tennessee struggled at times to get lined up and avoid a penalty.

              “It starts with focus and discipline on the small details,” Jones said. “We stress it everyday in practice, our players understand it. It’s those small things we talk about that leads to playing winning football or losing football games.”

              In the first half, Jones was impressed with how Guarantano made plays. On third downs, his mobility was the driving force to keep the offense on the field. Then in the second half, UT got away from that running ability when Guarantano was under pressure.

              “I thought particularly in the first quarter he was able to give us some yards. Being able to make something out of it and keep us on schedule. He was able to get us a couple third downs with his legs. I thought his energy and the way he approached his leadership, the quarterback characteristics we talk about all the time,” Jones added.

              Changes on the Offensive Line

              We reported yesterday at practice that the Vols’ were looking to change things up on the offensive line with a new rotation.

              Jones says that decision is still ongoing. But he’s looking at every possible rotation up front.

              “We’ll still continue to evaluate,” he said. “That’s a position that’s challenged by depth. So we’ll continue to move individuals around because of necessity and need.”

              Freshman Ryan Johnson is one guy who could get a look at more playing time very soon. Jones was complimentary of the former Brentwood Academy product.

              “Ryan works very hard everyday,” Jones said. “He’s very consistent, he’s going to come to work every single day and it’s important to him. Been very encouraged by what we see from him at practice.”