Report Card: Tennessee’s 2014 Season

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    Cam Sutton-1-2

     Secondary

    Daniel: Big step for this unit in 2014 as the Vols got a step closer to developing the athletic and physical secondary that Butch Jones is looking for at Tennessee. Cam Sutton was the MVP of this group, becoming a lockdown corner who was only beaten a handful of times throughout the course of the season. Teams got to the point where they were weary to throw – and sometimes even to run – to his side. Brian Randolph, though not spectacular, was steady at safety and brought a lot of leadership and communication to the group. Senior Justin Coleman struggled at times, but also made some nice plays. Emmanuel Moseley and Todd Kelly Jr. both need some more development, though both showed they will be factors in the seasons to come. Maybe the biggest surprise was LaDarrell McNeil, who many, including myself, somewhat wrote off before the season. He’s never going to have ideal speed, but he was generally a steady option at safety when given the opportunity to play. The Vols finished fourth in the league in passing defense and developed several nice options for next year and beyond. Job well done, overall. Grade: B+

    Houston: This group struggled mightily in a couple of games, but showed marked improvement in 2014. Cam Sutton taught quarterbacks early and often that throwing to his side of the field was a bad idea, and really played exceptionally well throughout the year. Justin Coleman’s move to the nickel spot really helped this team’s ability to defend the boundary, which cut down on deep completions along the sidelines. Mike Williams was among the most pleasant surprises of Team 118 until his suspension, but true freshman Emmanuel Moseley stepped in admirably in Williams’ absence at cornerback. Brian Randolph was as solid as most expected him to be at free safety, even while dealing with an ankle injury that nagged him all season. But the real surprise of that group was the production that they got from junior LaDarrell McNeil. McNeil entered the season as a potential liability at strong safety, but really improved his game over the offseason and was a dependable option for Tennessee. McNeil actually tied Randolph with two interceptions and finished 12 tackles short of Randolph’s secondary-leading 88. A good season for a group that looks capable of making another big leap in 2015. Grade: B

    Reed: Outside of the Alabama and South Carolina games, the secondary was very solid for the Vols. Teams picked on Justin Coleman at times and exposed LaDarrell McNeil’s lack of speed on more than one occasion, but both of those players improved as the season progressed and they were definitely more effective this season than at any point in 2013. Cam Sutton performed, yet again, at an All-SEC level (despite being snubbed by both the coaches and the media) and Brian Randolph anchored the back end of the defense. It was a big step forward for this group and a performance they should be able to build on in 2015. Grade: B

    Average Grade: B

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