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Grading the Vols’ Performance Through Five Weeks


Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

Nathanael: C

The Vols’ inside linebackers have been pretty good this season, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how Darrin Kirkland Jr. has recovered and played. But overall, the linebackers haven’t been extraordinary and have struggled with consistency.

When he’s played, Quart’e Sapp has looked good to me. But his drama during the Florida game was inexcusable. Daniel Bituli hasn’t been quite as good as I thought he’d be, but he certainly hasn’t been bad. I’ve also been pleased with what I’ve seen from Will Ignont at inside linebacker too.

Tennessee’s outside linebackers, however, are another story.

Darrell Taylor had a career game against Georgia, but before that he had been struggling this season. And we all know how poorly Jonathan Kongbo has played this year. Deandre Johnson hasn’t done much on the stat sheet, but he seems to play with an edge when he’s on the field.

Overall, the linebacking corps averages out to a “C” in my mind. The inside linebackers have outplayed the outside linebackers, but Taylor’s big game against Georgia could serve as a turning point for him. The group as a whole needs to do better about attacking and stopping running backs, though.

Ben: C+

The linebackers have been fairly productive this season, but similar to the defensive line, the group hasn’t been good enough to win at this level.

Darrell Taylor had a phenomenal game against Georgia, recording three sacks and forcing two fumbles. But up to that point, Taylor and Johnathan Kongbo had failed to get after the quarterback all season. As a result, West Virginia and Florida put up 40 points on Tennessee’s defense as Will Grier and Feleipe Franks picked the Vols apart. The Auburn game will be very telling for how Taylor and Kongbo fare the rest of the way. Auburn has struggled up front all season and could be missing both of its tackles, setting up for the pair of outside backers to have a big day.

Inside, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the play of Darrin Kirkland Jr., Will Ignont, and Quart’e Sapp (when he received reps against Georgia). Daniel Bituli has been solid, but he hasn’t taken the big leap that some thought he would heading into his junior season. The big problem for the group is missed tackles and playing in coverage. If they can shore up that area of their game, the group could be one of the better ones in the SEC.

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One Response

  1. No way the QB gets a B-. UT has a QB that has no feel for the game, cannot read defenses, and has no running ability. JG is the worse QB in the conference behind the worse line in the conference.
    I grade him a D- at best, just due to the fact he has improved from last year in the “throw game” (but not by much) and is playing behind this horrible offensive line.

    With this team, we need a true mobile QB that can make plays with the legs. I would bring Jennings back to QB and let him run the team against Auburn, Miz, Kent, Charlotte, and Vandy. We have no chance with JT.


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