RTI has reviewed the tape of Tennessee’s 38-7 win over Utah State. Here were some of the things that stood out on film:
• 14:30: Ethan Wolf completely whiffs on the defensive end and Jalen Hurd gets absolutely demolished by Kyler Fackrell in the hole; this causes the right side of the pocket to completely collapse and Justin Worley is sacked by Nick Vigil on 3rd and 8. Two very talented freshmen, Hurd and Wolf, each missed blocking assignments that resulted in Tennessee being forced to punt. I’ll bet they spend some time working on that in practice this week.
• 3:22: Chris Weatherd just blows by the Utah State right guard with a nice swim move and tackles the running back with Jalen Reeves-Maybin for a loss. Strong move and great speed shown by Weatherd.
• 9:50: Prime example of how this offense can get some easy yards: quick screen to Josh Smith who reads the (fantastic) block by Pig Howard and bursts down the sideline for 38 yards. Expect to see this all season.
• 9:30: The jet sweep to Pig Howard doesn’t go anywhere without Jalen Hurd’s perfect block to take out the safety at the line of scrimmage. A nice ‘bounce-back’ play by Hurd after missing the earlier block on Fackrell.
• 9:20: I know A.J. Johnson was credited with the forced fumble during the kick return, but it sure looks like Justin Coleman may have been the guy who punched it free. Regardless, the Vols swarmed to the football and reached the ball-carrier at the 10-yard line thanks to increased team speed.
• 9:15: Utah State knew they were beat before the play even started. Nick Vigil tried to signal for timeout before the ball was snapped but the official never saw him. I counted five Aggie defenders who were frozen by the play-action fake here – the result is Brendan Downs catching a touchdown on the drag route. Great throw by Worley to thread it in there and the Vols are up 14-0 after six minutes of play.
• 9:05: A.J. Johnson with another nice play on kickoff coverage. He’s pretty good at that tackling thing.
• 2:10: Back-to-back penalties against offensive linemen makes it 3rd and 18 instead of 3rd and 8. Vols pick up 15 on the next play but are forced to punt. This is what keeps Butch Jones up at night.
• 14:08: Danny O’Brien and Derek Barnett get great penetration on 3rd and 1 to stop Utah State short of the first down, which is immediately followed by Jordan Williams and Derek Barnett sandwiching the running back for a stop on 4th and 1.
• 12:20: Mack Crowder is absolutely steamrolled by Travis Seefeldt, resulting in a sack of Justin Worley and bringing up a 3rd and long. The Vols fail to convert and are forced to attempt a field goal, which is missed by Aaron Medley.
• 8:58: Freshman right guard Jashon Robertson misses a block and Justin Worley is hit as he throws deep to Josh Malone. Roberston has played well, but made a freshman mistake on this play.
• 7:33: At this point, I think reality is starting to set in for Chuckie Keeton. He is being forced to move from the pocket and none of his receivers are getting open down the field. He has been hit repeatedly and just took another big shot from A.J. Johnson in the end zone as his pass fell incomplete.
• 7:02: LaDarrell McNeil tattoos USU receiver Brandon Swindall on an incomplete pass over the middle on first down and then Danny O’Brien hits Keeton for a loss on the very next play. Justin Coleman and Chris Weatherd apply pressure to Keeton on 3rd and 11 and Keeton’s pass falls incomplete. Just a perfect stand by the Vol defense here. The Aggies are now 1 of 7 on third down conversions.
• 5:40: Hurd may have had a big run had he followed his lead blocker to the edge, but instead lowered his shoulder and punched through the line for a first down. Smart play by Hurd to go ahead and move the chains instead of trying to hit a home run.
• 3:38: A false start by freshman tight end Daniel Helm on 4th and 1 forces the Vols to punt and Butch Jones lets his newcomer hear all about it. These are the type of penalties that you expect from freshman, but Tennessee will have to tighten up in this area moving forward.
• 2:20: Keeton is doing anything he can to avoid getting hit and throws a jump ball to Ronald Butler when he shouldn’t have. The problem is that Butler is being covered well by Cameron Sutton, who comes down with the interception.
• Daniel Gray has covered every Vol receiver to this point and has actually done a pretty solid job on every one of them.
• 11:28: Marcus Jackson gets blown up by Utah State defensive end B.J. Larsen and runs right into Marlin Lane to force a tackle for loss. Vols can’t afford that from Jackson – their most experienced offensive lineman – going forward.
• 11:03: We saw several examples of receivers blocking downfield and here’s a great example. Worley hits Howard on a quick-hitter, Von Pearson is able to cut the CB enough on that side and Howard gets a nice gain.
• 8:58: After Ethan Wolf’s near-fumble, the offense does a great job getting to the line quickly to try to get a snap off before a potential review. But the Vols jumped early (refs got the number wrong and it’s hard to tell who it was), not only earning a penalty, but also giving time for a review to be call for. It wasn’t a fumble in the end, but that’s a good example of how one mental error can lead to other bad things for a team.
• One general observation I’ve seen a few times: Jalen Hurd does a great job selling his fakes when he’s involved in play action.
• 6:06: Jacob Gilliam loses his helmet, forcing him to come out of the game. It’s interesting that Brett Kendrick, the redshirt freshman, came in the game to replace him instead of Dontavius Blair. In fact, Blair didn’t play the entire game – even when Gilliam went down with an injury later. That could be paving the way for a redshirt for the junior college transfer.
• 5:37: Von Pearson’s 13-yard touchdown catch and run on 3rd and 3 is a great example of scheme and skill working together for a nice play. The Vols are stacked in trips on Pearson’s side with Ethan Wolf and Jason Croom – who combined weigh nearly 500 pound. They get good enough blocks to get Pearson the first down. That’s a well-schemed play. But then Pearson makes a Utah State defender miss and takes it the rest of the way for the score. That’s skill.
• 4:13: Best play of the game from Curt Maggitt as he tackles Utah State RB Joe Hill for a loss. A pulling guard tried to knock Maggitt out of the play, but he took on the block, didn’t lose his leverage, was able to disengage the lineman and bring Hill down in the backfield.
• 3:23: A different look for Tennessee’s defense on 3rd and 14. The Vols go with just two down linemen and Curt Maggitt and Chris Weatherd are standing up and moving
• Spent a few plays just watching Jashon Robertson here late in the third quarter. He looks good – especially in the run game. He’s getting some push and he does a good job getting to the second level of the defense.
• 15:00: Watching the Jalen Hurd touchdown catch again and realizing what a great play it was by the freshman. The timing was off from the offensive line, so Hurd didn’t get a ton of help. He broke two tackles on his own and showed great agility and vision as he weaved back into the middle of the field for the score.
• 14:46: Utah State had maybe its best play of the game on a 39-yard run by JoJo Natson (why didn’t he touch the ball more by the way?). The good news for Tennessee is that the Vols were starting to make wholesale changes at this point – it was the second-team defensive line and some other backups mixed in as well. The Aggies followed it with a touchdown pass over Justin Coleman’s head. That was just a bad play overall for Coleman. Not only did he have to grab the Utah State receivers’ jersey, but he still underplayed the ball and let it float over his head.
• 12:45: Great read by Worley on the zone read. The end crashed down, triggering the keep read and Worley picked up nine yards. He was hesitant to keep it a few times last year.
• Some good work from the backup defensive line early in the fourth quarter. Dimarya Mixon had some good pressure and LaTroy Lewis picked up a nice sack on a third and long.
• Second-team offensive line: Brett Kendrick, Austin Sanders, Dylan Wiesman, Marques Pair, Coleman Thomas
• Some camera shots of the sideline showed Jacob Gilliam walking around and all smiles. He didn’t return to the game after leaving with an injury and Jones didn’t have an update on him after the game, but it didn’t look too serious based on that.