Josh Heupel’s Inaugural Season: By The Numbers

    by -

    Is Trevor Lawrence A Bust?

    Tennessee went 7-6 (4-4 SEC) in Josh Heupel’s first season, posting a 7-5 regular season recorded before losing in the Music City Bowl.

    The Vols had a record breaking offensive season while third down defense was a major weakness for Tennessee.

    Take a look at Josh Heupel’s first team by the numbers.

    Hooker’s Big Season

    – 2,945 passing yards, 620 rushing yards

    Fourth in the SEC in passing yards. Fourth all time in Tennessee football for total yards in a season. Third most rush yards in a season for a Tennessee quarterback. Third most rushing yards of any quarterback in the SEC,

    – 31 passing touchdowns, five rushing touchdowns and three interceptions

    Third in SEC in passing touchdowns. Third most passing touchdowns in Tennessee history. Tied for least amount of interceptions in the SEC. Fourth most rushing touchdowns of any quarterback in the SEC.

    – 68.2 completion percentage, 181.42 quarterback rating

    Second in the SEC in completion percentage. First in Tennessee history in completion percentage. First in the SEC in quarterback rating. First in Tennessee history in quarterback rating

    Breakout Receivers

    Cedric Tillman: 64 catches, 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns

    The redshirt-junior quarterback combined for eight catches, 124 yards and two touchdowns his first three seasons in Knoxville. Tillman tallied five 100 yard games, each coming after October 23.

    Velus Jones Jr: 62 catches, 807 yards and seven touchdowns

    The super senior had by far his best season in his fifth in college and second in Knoxville. Entering this season, Jones Jr. had just 58 catches for 627 yards and four touchdowns.

    JaVonta Payton: 18 catches, 413 yards and six touchdowns

    The Mississippi State transfer entered his final college season with just 28 catches, 372 yards and one touchdown.

    Fast Starts, Bad Second Quarters

    Tennessee was the best first quarter team in the country this season, out scoring its opponents 176-51. The Vols led the country both in first quarter points scored and first quarter point differential.

    Heupel’s first Tennessee team led at the end of the first quarter in 11 of 13 games this season. Only Florida and Ole Miss led Tennessee at the end of the first quarter and the Vols had double-digit leads at the end of the first quarter in seven games.

    Despite leading at the end of the first quarter in 11 games, Tennessee led at halftime in only seven games and only four SEC games.

    As good as the Vols were in the first quarter they were nearly as bad in the second, getting out scored by opponents 109-163. The number drops to 74-150 if you take out wins over Bowling Green, Tennessee Tech and South Alabama.

    Total Offensive Numbers

    – 39.3 points per game

    Ranked second in the SEC. Ranked seventh. The most points Tennessee has scored in a season. Nearly doubled the average from 2020 (21.5).

    – 474.6 offensive yards per game

    Ranked third in the SEC. Ranked seventh in the country.. Nearly 130 yards more per game than the Vols posted in 2020 (346)

    – 257.2 passing yards per game

    Ranked fifth in the SEC. Ranked 41st in the nation.

    – 217.5 rushing yards per game.

    Ranked third in the SEC. Ranked 12th in the nation.

    – One turnover a game

    Tied for fifth in the SEC. Tied for 16th in the nation.

    Vols Struggle To Get Off The Field

    – 42.1% third down conversion rate

    Opponents moved the chains on third downs against Tennessee more than every SEC opponent besides Missouri. The Vols’ third down defense ranked 103rd out of 130 division one teams.

    Tennessee particularly struggled on third down against Ole Miss, Alabama and Kentucky. The three conference foes combined to convert 38-of-58 (65.6%) of third downs.

    – 50% fourth down conversion rate

    Tied for eighth in the SEC in fourth down defense. Tied for 55th nationally in fourth down defense.

    Total Defensive Numbers

    – 29.1 points allowed per game.

    Ranked 12th in the SEC. Ranked 90th in the nation.

    – 421.7 defensive yards allowed per game.

    Ranked 12th in the SEC. Ranked 105nd in the nation.

    – 273.2 passing yards allowed per game.

    Ranked last in the SEC. Ranked 122nd in the nation.

    – 148.5 rushing yards per game 

    Ranked eighth in the SEC. Ranked 59th in the nation.

    – 6.1 tackles for loss per game

    Tied for sixth most in the SEC. Tied for 49th in the nation.

    – 2.62 sacks per game

    Tied for seventh most in the SEC. Tied for 43rd in the nation.

    Press the kicking game

    – Opponents made 14-of-18 field goals against Tennessee this season

    – Tennessee kicker Chase McGrath made 12-of-16 field goals this season

    – Tennessee blocked two punts this season.

    – Tennessee allowed two fake punt conversions this season.

    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.