Trevor Daniel is one of the best punters in the country. The senior punter for Tennessee is truly a special teams weapon, and the Vols have used him as such many times in his career.
But this season, they’ve had to rely on Daniel far too often. And that’s just another side effect of a struggling offense.
Daniel has punted the ball 56 times this season. That’s tied for the most in the SEC with Texas A&M, and that’s tied for the 15th-most in all of college football. Luckily for Tennessee, Daniel is one of the most prolific punters in the country and is averaging 46.5 yards per punt on those 56 punts. That average is the fourth-best in the entire country.
But as good as Daniel is and as much of a weapon as he can be, he’s been a weapon Tennessee has used far too often this season.
Twice this season, the Vols have had more punts in a game than first downs. Against both Georgia and Alabama, Tennessee had just seven first downs. And in both those games, Trevor Daniel was asked to punt the ball nine times.
Daniel had to punt the ball eight times Saturday night against Southern Miss, a Conference USA team. He also punted it away eight times against UMass, the worst FBS team Tennessee played this season.
Tennessee is averaging 6.22 punts per game this season. The only time the Vols averaged close to that same amount over the last decade was in 2014 when the Vols punted the ball 80 times and averaged 6.15 punts a contest.
The Vols’ offense has been downright awful this season. Tennessee is averaging less than 300 yards of offense a game (298.1), and Saturday marked the fourth time this year that the Vols totaled less than 260 yards of offense in a game. Tennessee managed just 210 yards of offense against Southern Miss.
Only four teams in all of college football average less yards per game on offense than Tennessee.
The Vols are also one of the worst teams in the country at converting third downs. And that’s part of the reason why Daniel has had to work so much this season.
Tennessee’s offense has converted just 38 of their 125 third down attempts this season. That’s a paltry 30.4 percent conversion rate, and it’s the eighth-worst in the nation. The Vols were just 2-of-13 on third downs against Southern Miss on Saturday night, and that marked the fourth time this season that Tennessee had converted less than 30 percent of their third downs in a game.
Tennessee has a punting problem. Fortunately for them, it’s not with their actual punter. But unfortunately for them, it’s because they’re having to rely on him far too often to try and “win the field position battle” rather than finishing off drives with points.