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Report Card: Tennessee’s 2014 Season

Jalen Reeves Maybin-1


Daniel: The good was the development of Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who seamlessly transitioned from part-time player to every-down starter in 2014. A.J. Johnson also played arguably the best football of his career throughout the first 10 games. The ugly came off the field with Johnson’s suspension and legal investigation that led to a huge void on the field for Tennessee. Jakob Johnson and Kenny Bynum, understandably, simply weren’t ready to step up anywhere near A.J.’s level of play. Curt Maggitt, who did most of his damage from the defensive end position, also contributed to this group. Less experienced players such as Cortez McDowell, Dillon Bates (season cut short by injury) and Chris Weatherd also showed some flashes. The body of work was good for this group, but the loss of A.J. Johnson and the overall lack of production from some of the reserves put somewhat of a damper on its performance.  Grade: B

Houston: What Tennessee got from Jalen Reeves-Maybin and A.J. Johnson through ten games of the season was absolutely remarkable. They truly were as solid of a tandem as you would find across the league. But Johnson’s suspension following Tennessee’s win over Kentucky really brought this group’s lack of depth and overall inexperience to the forefront. Kenny Bynum and Jakob Johnson filled in and showed flashes of ability, but couldn’t replace the production or leadership that A.J. Johnson gave this team when he was on the field. Chris Weatherd made some impact plays in special pass-rushing packages earlier in the season, but was unable to do much over the final six games as teams adjusted their protections to account for him. Considering the glaring lack of depth and experience, this group wasn’t nearly the question mark that it appeared to be heading into the season. The group didn’t have a large number of high-impact plays this season, but really put together a solid year for Tennessee’s defense. Grade: B

Reed: Before A.J. Johnson’s suspension, the Vol linebackers were among the best in the SEC. A.J. Johnson turned in a fantastic senior campaign on the field before his suspension and Jalen Reeves-Maybin was one of the breakout stars on the team.  Johnson and Reeves-Maybin tied for 8th in the SEC in tackles and JRM finished the year with 11 tackles for loss – good for 14th in the league. Behind them, Tennessee was unable to find consistent production. A shoulder injury derailed Dillon Bates’ promising freshman year. Jakob Johnson and Kenny Bynum struggled to fill Johnson’s spot at middle linebacker and Cortez McDowell, while solid on special teams, didn’t see much time at linebacker. Chris Weatherd was effective as a pass rush specialist in several games and should play a bigger role next season. Overall, though, this unit exceeded expectations. They weren’t a liability and simply made more plays than many expected headed into the year. Grade: B

Average Grade: B

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