Film Review: A Second Look at UT-Appalachian State

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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    Some things that stood out after watching Tennessee-Appalachian State a second time:

    Interior O-line struggles: It didn’t take two times watching the game to see that the offensive line didn’t play particularly well, but after watching the film it became even more apparent what a struggle it was for this group. Not all, but a majority, of the issues came from the interior of the offensive line with Coleman Thomas, Jashon Roberston and Dylan Wiesman – a group that was supposed to be a strength – having some of their worst games on Thursday evening.

    There were some issues in the run game as well with this group:

    I picked some negative plays for demonstration purposes. Of course, there were some good ones too, and I thought, overall, this group got a little better in the second half as the Vols staged their comeback. But there’s a lot of work to do inside, and it will be interesting to see if Jack Jones or any other reserves will get a look against Virginia Tech.

    I thought tackles Brett Kendrick and Drew Richmond, for the most part, played fairly well – at least in comparison to their interior counterparts.

    It’s never fair to say that one group was at fault for everything, but the lack of consistent protection and the inability to stay on groups did handcuff offensive coordinator Mike DeBord to an extent. That’s not to say the play-calling was fantastic all game. But the O-line did put the Vols in a bind.

    Things to clean up on defense: While I saw some major flaws on offense, the more I watched the defense, the more it seemed that the issues are correctable for the most part. Yes, Appalachian State ran the ball better than I expected, but the Mountaineers were one of the best rushing teams in the nation last year and returned most of the parts of that attack.

    The Vols do need to work on tackling and wrapping up a bit:

    And losing leverage was an issue as well. By that, I mean Tennessee let Appalachian State get to the corner too frequently. Depending on the scheme and the call, somebody – usually an end or a linebacker – is responsible for making sure no run gets to the outside.

    I thought Derek Barnett played extremely well overall, even though he didn’t record any sacks. He was a bit too aggressive and contributed to the lost leverage a few times, but all-in-all, he was the most disruptive force UT had up front. There were a few times where it looked like the alignment or communication was off a bit as well. Perhaps losing Reeves-Maybin early in the game contributed to that issue.

    Game-savers: Re-watching the late portions of the game reminded me of several potential game-savers for Tennessee that might get overlooked.

    First was the interception in the third quarter by Cam Sutton. Appalachian State was up 13-3, marching down the field and milking the clock at an alarming rate. It was down to around 7:00 when Sutton made the pick. If the Mountaineers finish this drive off, I don’t think UT comes back.

    Another one: Dylan Wiesman scrambles into a pack of App. State players to grab this fumble late in the fourth quarter:

    And UT got a lot of help with this terrible time management from App. State at the end of regulation. The Mountaineers had a timeout left they could’ve used with about 12 seconds remaining, and instead decided to line up and run another play. After some scrambling around, quarterback Taylor Lamb couldn’t get out of bounds in time, sending the game to overtime with a timeout still in coach Scott Satterfield’s pocket.

    They needed about 10 more yards to try a realistic field goal. If he had to do it again, I’m sure he would call a timeout, design a throw about 8-10 yards down the field that either got out of bounds or got a first down and gave them a chance to spike it.

    And there were several plays in overtime, including the Dobbs third-down conversion run, but the fumble by Dobbs with the recovery by Hurd might be the most important fumble in the past few years for the Vols.

    Passing game: Dobbs finished 16-of-29 for 192 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The passing game was really clicking early:

    But after Williams’ drop in the end zone, the Vols got out of sync in the passing game for much of the second and third quarters. Mike DeBord didn’t seem to have much confidence in it after a couple shaky throws (and shaky protection).

    The Vols did have another potential game-saver in the fourth, though, when Dobbs threw one of his better passes in his career to Josh Malone for the game-tying score. It could’ve used a little bit more air and distance, but he gave his 6-4 receiver a chance to go up against a 5-10 freshman and make the play. Josh Malone only made two catches, but they were massive. He had a third-down conversion on the play before, and then this:

    The “gotta have it” players: Butch Jones made a good point last week, saying the depth chart isn’t what really matters to him, but rather who he trusts to put on the field in the big moments.

    I paid close attention to that in the fourth quarter and overtime, watching to see what players he trusted in the game in some of the biggest moments. I could’ve missed one or two, but these are the guys I saw on the field in those situations:

    QB: Josh Dobbs
    RB: Jalen Hurd, Alvin Kamara
    WR: Preston Williams, Josh Smith, Josh Malone, Jauan Jennings
    TE: Ethan Wolf, Eli Wolf
    O-line: Drew Richmond, Dylan Wiesman, Coleman Thomas, Jashon Robertson, Brett Kendrick (believe those five played every offensive snap)

    DE: Derek Barnett, Corey Vereen, LaTroy Lewis, Jonathan Kongbo (played DT in almost every third-and-long situation)
    DT: Danny O’Brien, Kendal Vickers, Kahlil McKenzie
    LB: Darrin Kirkland Jr., Cortez McDowell (in for JRM after ejection), Kenny Bynum
    CB: Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, Justin Martin
    NB: Rashaan Gaulden, Malik Foreman
    S: Todd Kelly Jr., Micah Abernathy

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