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Vols Showing Big Improvement in Two Critical Areas

(Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics)

Tennessee has only played three teams so far in the 2018 season, and two of their games have been against clearly inferior opponents. But the Vols are showing clear improvement in two key areas this year when compared to last season.

Last year, the Vols had one of the worst run defenses in all of college football. Tennessee allowed 251.3 rushing yards per game last season and gave up 29 rushing touchdowns while allowing teams to average 5.43 yards per carry. Tennessee’s run defense was one of the most talked about areas of the team heading into this season.

And so far, the Vols’ rushing defense has been far better than last year.

Through three games this year, the Vols have not given up a single rushing touchdown to their opponents. Granted, the Vols have played West Virginia (a pass-first team), ETSU (an FCS squad), and UTEP (arguably the worst FBS team this season) to start this year, but Tennessee has yet to allow a score on the ground through the first three games of this season. After allowing at least one rushing touchdown in all but two games last year and allowing multiple rushing scores in seven games last season, that’s a big step in the right direction.

Not only that, but the Vols have only allowed 112.7 rushing yards per game through three games this season. And they’re only allowing an average of 4.02 yards per carry to opponents as well.

But that’s not the only area where the Vols have shown some major improvement to start this year.

During the 2017 season, Tennessee managed only four plays of 50 yards or more all season long. They also only averaged 11 plays per game that went for 10 or more yards, totaling 132 such plays in 12 games last year.

This season, however, the Vols are showing off a play-making ability they didn’t have at all last year.

Through just three games this season, Tennessee already has more plays of 50 or more yards on offense than they did during the entire season last year. After an 81-yard touchdown run by Ty Chandler and another 50-yard pass by Jarrett Guarantano, the Vols already have five plays of 50 or more yards this season through three games. They also have 39 plays of 10 or more yards, giving them an average of 13 such plays per game to start this season.

The Vols couldn’t generate many big plays last year, and that was one of the big reasons the offense struggled so mightily. This year, Tennessee’s offense still has its issues, but they’ve been able to pull off some big chunks on offense. Tennessee only averaged 4.77 yards per play all of last season, but this year they’re averaging 6.39 yards per play on offense through three games.

Tennessee still has a lot to fix on both sides of the ball (and on special teams too). But so far this season, the Vols are showing definite improvements in a couple critical areas where they struggled last season. Now it’s time to see if they can keep up that improvement once the SEC schedule starts next weekend.

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