Tennessee’s coaches did a decent job of masking weaknesses in this game, and the Vols were actually in the ball game in the fourth quarter despite another really slow start. There were still some questionable decisions on offense, most notably in the first half. But the second half showed more creativity, and the staff adjusted well. The decision to go for two on the Vols’ two touchdowns have been a point of contention among fans, but those decisions didn’t come back to bite the Vols any. Tennessee managed to play closer to the No. 2 team in the nation than most expected, and the coaching staff helped put their players in good spots for most of the night.
My biggest gripe with the coaching staff is that they don’t trust Jarrett Guarantano enough to push the ball downfield more. Guarantano makes good decisions, has the arm to stretch the field vertically, and has the weapons at receiver, tight end, and out of the backfield to really be a difference maker. Maybe it’s because the coaches don’t trust the offensive line to give Guarantano enough time to make a play, but the playbook needs to be opened up more. On offense, Tennessee is far too conservative right now.
What was most impressive was that Jeremy Pruitt and his coaches had the team ready to play after last week’s debacle against Florida. Tennessee was locked in from the jump, specifically on defense. The Vols played with a toughness on Saturday that hasn’t really been seen in quite some time, and that was refreshing to see. It wasn’t good enough to win, but it’s a step in the right direction.