PFF Grades: Music City Bowl

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    The Cotton Bowl Preview: Cincinnati’s Defense Needs To Get After Young

    Tennessee dropped a heartbreaker to Purdue to close the 2021 season in the Music City Bowl.

    Missed opportunities and blown calls were the story of the game as the Vols blew chances to win and a controversial forward progress call downed Tennessee in overtime.

    If you need a reminder on how Pro Football Focus works, read the opening of the Bowling Green grades.

    Let’s see how the Vols graded out.

    Elite grade = 90-100, All-Conference = 85-89, Starter = 70-84, Backup = 60-69, Replaceable = 60 >

    Offensive Grades (minimum 31 plays — 30% of offensive snaps)

    RB Jabari Small — 76.5 (67 plays)

    WR Cedric Tillman — 67.7 (103 plays)

    RB Jaylen Wright — 67.0 (44 plays)

    QB Hendon Hooker — 67.0 (103 plays)

    WR Jalin Hyatt — 66.8 (34 plays)

    C Cooper Mays — 62.5 (103 plays)

    OG Javontez Spraggins —61.6 (103 plays)

    WR Velus Jones Jr — 61.0 (78 plays)

    OT Darnell Wright — 60.3 (103 plays)

    WR JaVonta Payton — 53.5 (100 plays)

    OG Jerome Carvin — 53.5 (103 plays)

    TE Princeton Fant — 50.8 (98 plays)

    OT Dayne Davis — 50.2 (81 plays)

    OT Jeremiah Crawford — 35.3 (31 plays)

    It shows how far Tennessee’s offense has come that quarterback Hendon Hooker played an average game on Thursday but threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns and earned a solid grade.

    Jacob Warren and Princeton Fant have split playing time all season but Fanta earned 98 snaps to Warren’s 10. Both of those guys are coming back next season and Tennessee needs more consistent play from that group.

    Cade Mays’ absence was truly felt as the Vols’ pass protection at right tackle struggled all game long. Dayne Davis and Jeremiah Crawford earned snaps in replacement and earned the two lowest offensive grades.

    Defensive Grades (minimum of 24 plays — 30% of defensive snaps)

    DT Matthew Butler — 81.0 (62 plays)

    DE Tyler Baron — 76.3 (38 plays)

    DE Byron Young — 73.6 (63 plays)

    S Trevon Flowers — 70.6 (88 plays)

    LB Jeremy Banks — 67.7 (88 plays)

    CB Kamal Hadden — 64.9 (75 plays)

    DE Caleb Tremblay — 64.5 (38 plays)

    STAR Theo Jackson — 63.2 (88 plays)

    DT Omari Thomas — 63.1 (30 plays)

    DT Da’Jon Terry — 63.0 (24 plays)

    DE Roman Harrison — 62.9 (44 plays)

    DT Kurrott Garland — 61.8 (37 plays)

    LB Aaron Beasley — 56.5 (88 plays)

    CB Warren Burrell — 50.9 (82 plays)

    S Jaylen McCollough — 49.6 (88 plays)

    Matthew Butler played his final game of his career like he has all season — playing a ton of snaps and ranking as one of UT’s best defenders. The Vols will miss him in a big way next year.

    Tennessee’s corners who were thrust into a larger role really struggled, besides Kamal Hadden. Doneiko Slaughter and De’Shawn Rucker didn’t play enough to grade out but really struggled.

    Tyler Baron and Byron Young hadn’t played together at all this season. That changed on Thursday when Tennessee found a way to play them at the same time. That needs to be a common trend in 2022.

    Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.