Z's Postgame Report Card vs. Pitt

#1

zjcvols

WE’RE GONNA BITE YOUR KNEECAP OFF
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#1
Quarterbacks...C-: Tennessee shot themselves in the foot plenty, but that game goes different if Joe Milton hits two throws to make it 21-0 instead of 10-0. He missed FOUR passes that should have been completed and the throw to Hyatt was late (so five missed throws) that caused the defender to knock the ball out. He did a great job creating in the run game and he can move the offense quickly but these brutal overthrows are killing the offensive flow. It just cannot happen. Hendon Hooker did well considering the circumstances. He led Tennessee to 24 points despite two turnovers and got them inside the 5 with no points. Two turnovers are bad, yes that cannot happen. He stared down the wide receiver on the crossing route and the safety made the play. That cannot happen. But considering he got no first team reps and had to come in relief, he did well. He kept the offense moving and extended plays with his feet including a 3rd & 15 that was Dobbs-esque. He has a good arm and did a nice job distributing the football. That throw on the seam to Jacob Warren for the TD was a gorgeous ball. Milton doesn't make that play. I will say the procedure penalties are a negative and those seems to stay down with Milton...but that can improve with more practice. I like Hooker for this offense...let's see what Heupel does.

Running Backs...D: I'm not an offensive line expert so I'm not sure who deserves more of the blame for the putrid performance in the non-QB designed run department. But it was brutal. I think Jabari Small has some talent but he doesn't make enough guys miss or have the strength to churn yards forward after contact. I thought he missed a couple cuts to the outside that would have created big plays. Jaylen Wright...he's a freshman but I'm not sure I see SEC talent from him. It's the same thing with him as Small, just not enough yards after contact to turn a one yard run into 3 yards. He missed a couple holes. But he was in a really tough spot playing every snap in the second half. That is not his role. 19 carries for 33 yards between the two is abysmal. It was definitely not all them and we will get to that. But Tiyon Evans is clearly the best back on this team and needs to be the primary back when he gets back.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends...B+: The best group of the day when it comes to positions. I thought this group played really well. That play by Jimmy Calloway was gorgeous (despite the worst angle I have ever seen on a tackle attempt by the Pitt corner) and the balance to tip toe down the sideline was gorgeous. You can see why the staff really likes him. Cedric Tillman is a good football player. A good QB and he'd have two 100 yards games to start the season. Despite that, he still brought effort and made a couple nice blocks on screens to spring guys. All the wide receivers hustle when blocking and that's a good job by Kodi Burns to instill that. Velus Jones had two first downs and nice to see him involved with the offense. Jalin Hyatt's drop was not a good sign and then he got hurt but a quicker read by Milton would have been 6. The TE group was great. Not as efficient blocking but Princeton Fant and Jacob Warren were good. 9 catches for 102 yards and a TD from the TE group is a big win. Warren had two beautiful sell jobs fake QB runs that produced a TD and a 30 yard gain on seam routes. He made a nice adjustment on his TD grab. Fant isn't flashy but he does a nice job running his route and turning upfield. This group is a positive for Tennessee and I wouldn't have said that three weeks ago.

Offensive Line...F: This group is too talented to have such a miserable effort as they did on Saturday. You can tell how badly this group missed Cooper Mays' leadership and talent at Center. Five sacks is inexcusable and they got Milton hurt on a miscommunication. A couple plays Hooker had no chance to make a play because of the instant pressure. I criticized the running back group but Small and Wright are not that terrible where they get 19 carries for 33 yards. That means you are not opening holes for those guys and the OL didn't. Ollie Lane got pushed around and Carvin is much better at guard than center. And the most inexcusable part of this is 7 penalties for 64 yards...including two that were after the play penalties. It absolutely killed Tennessee and the 15 yarder Cade Mays got was atrocious timing. I was really disappointed in this group. They are too talented even with Cooper Mays out.

Defensive Line...C: There were some positives and negatives. I loved the interior push Tennessee got all game. Elijah Simmons is the most improved on the team and a force in the run game. Matthew Butler was solid as well. I was really impressive with the explosion and jumps the interior DL got consistently. I wonder if Pitt had a tell on their run plays or on their snap count for run plays because on re-watch those guys seemed to time everything right in the run game. They also did a great job controlling their gaps and maintaining position for the linebackers/Theo Jackson to clean up. However the lack of pass rush killed Tennessee on Saturday. Now...when I re-watched Kenny Pickett's ability to reset his feet and avoid getting into pressure was impressive to watch. He knew what he was doing and he's good. But there was simply not enough on the edge to make Pickett nervous. Both sacks came on blitzes and Tennessee only got three QB hurries from their defensive line. The only pressure Tennessee got was on blitzes. That cannot happen. I did like Tyler Baron's play in the run game with 2.5 TFL and that deserves to be mentioned. Hopefully Byron Young can ball out and put pressure on QB's...Tennessee needs it.

Linebackers...C+: Juwan Mitchell was much more involved this week and I thought had some nice tackles in space. He did a good job reading the gaps and being aggressive in the box. There were a couple mistakes in the passing defense. He got completely fooled on Lucas Krull's TD on the trick play that Pitt ran and lost coverage on him. He also fell for a couple nice ball fakes by Pickett in the play action game. He needs to make sure to maintain discipline and play his coverages, especially since he is more the coverage LB and Banks is the run stuffer. Speaking of Jeremy Banks...another solid game. He does a great job getting downhill and cleaning up the run game. He's not much in pass coverage and Tennessee relies more on Mitchell and Solon Page to do that...but he does his job very well. He annoys me speaking he is constantly talking and I keep waiting for a 15 yard unsportsman like penalty at any point...but he is balling out this year. I find it interesting defensive wizard Jeremy Pruitt could not unlock his talent but Brian Jean-Mary and Tim Banks could...I hope Banks continues to develop.

Defensive Backs...C-: I wish I had the All-22 film because it would be helpful to see the coverages we were playing with how Pickett was able to dissect our defense. But when your pass rush sending 4 is as poor as Tennessee's was it can be hard to judge the DB's. I like what Alontae Taylor does. It was obvious Pitt didn't want to challenge him too much and he had a couple nice tackles on the edge. I think he only gave up one or two completions and neither were big plays down the field. Warren Burrell had some struggles. He gave up a few completions and was busted for an obvious pass interference and could have been called for two more on replay. He seems to be a solid tackler but Pitt picked on him some. He had a better second half with a couple nice pass deflections but he still needs to improve. It's hard to know what the safeties are doing based on sideline views. Just based on my amateur abilities...it seems our safeties are looking at the QB's eyes too often. Which that is part of their job but I feel like they aren't reading routes enough and not reacting to crossing routes well enough. Both McCollough and Flowers play well in the box but if we are going to run as much Two Man/Cover 2 & 3 as much as we do the safeties have to be more cognizant of those middle of the field routes.

Special Teams...A+: Where can I go ahead and vote Mike Ekeler as the best ST coach at UT in the last 15 years? The coverage units were absolutely fantastic. Paxton Brooks punted the ball for 183 yards and Pitt has 5 return yards...that is 178 yards of field position After a stupid penalty by Darnell Wright, Tennessee had to kick off from the 20...Pitt only got to the 30. And while UT's lack of touchbacks was a concern, it's by design. They want the coverage team to push them back. Pitt finally started to fair catch after realizing the coverage unit was too good. And that blocked punt was all film prep. They found a weakness in Pitt's blocking unit and took advantage with a big play. Chase McGrath hit all his kicks including a big 48 yarder...he's been a nice addition. Great work by Ekeler...give him a raise already.

Coaching: C-...Some people will say too low. Some people will say "F" because of the QB situation and the penalties...I understand that penalties is discipline and people assume that is bad coaching. I personally disagree. The coaching staff isn't telling Cade Mays to shove a guy three seconds after the play. The coaching staff isn't telling Darnell Wright to get an unsportsman like penalty after a TD. The coaching staff isn't telling Warren Burrell to grab jersey even when you aren't exactly beat. Yes the procedural penalties need to be cleaned up and that's part of running an offense this fast. I agree. But the players have to take responsibility too and play smarter. I thought the team came ready to play. The Special Teams units were spectacular. The fake QB design and hit the TE on the seam was gorgeous play calling. The two QB draws for Milton were as beautiful as the Smoky Mountains. I love the play design of this offense. There were negatives. Heupel should have challenged for that spot even with the confusion. The lack of blitzing was peculiar especially with how easy Pickett had it. That fourth down play was a disaster and Pitt knew it was coming. There are things to clean up for sure. It's game 2...this staff is still feeling things out. The big thing going forward is how stubborn will Heupel be about the QB situation. It seems obvious to me Hooker should be the guy. I'm fine with Milton winning the job if he was the best guy in camp. But in five quarters he has shown he cannot make the plays down the field. This offense goes too fast and the team isn't good enough to miss big plays like that. Please Josh watch the film and make the right decision.
 
#2

goodtobegoad

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#2
Pretty good assessments in my opinion.

Really disappointed in McCullough and flowers. For guys who have been playing three years I just don’t think they are the answer at safety. To me anytime they play the back end of cover 2 or 3 they are always two steps late getting to the ball. Sometimes having that instinct and play making ability is just natural and I feel they lack it. Once again they are serviceable but aren’t going to save you or make any game changing interceptions off instincts or great gambles. They wait for the ball to be released and then react, which with their speed gets them there too late.
On another note I must give props to Theo Jackson. I had the same opinion of him as the other two last year but he has seemed to take a leap thus far this year.
 
#3

Fullfillmer

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#3
The fourth and goal blew up in the middle of the line. Not sure if it was their nose guard that blew our backup center into the backfield - but it was in that area. Probably not a wise decision to run behind a backup in the first place.
 
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#4

Woodlawn VOL

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#4
I think alot of the penalty precedures may be because Cooper at Center was out. The game before we made only 1 or 2. I know for sure we are better with Cooper in there but glad some guys got the playing time. I think he is healthy along with evans and we are gettting Young back out there this week. We need to have all of them when we head to florida. GBO!
 
#5

VOLINVONORE

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#5
Quarterbacks...C-: Tennessee shot themselves in the foot plenty, but that game goes different if Joe Milton hits two throws to make it 21-0 instead of 10-0. He missed FOUR passes that should have been completed and the throw to Hyatt was late (so five missed throws) that caused the defender to knock the ball out. He did a great job creating in the run game and he can move the offense quickly but these brutal overthrows are killing the offensive flow. It just cannot happen. Hendon Hooker did well considering the circumstances. He led Tennessee to 24 points despite two turnovers and got them inside the 5 with no points. Two turnovers are bad, yes that cannot happen. He stared down the wide receiver on the crossing route and the safety made the play. That cannot happen. But considering he got no first team reps and had to come in relief, he did well. He kept the offense moving and extended plays with his feet including a 3rd & 15 that was Dobbs-esque. He has a good arm and did a nice job distributing the football. That throw on the seam to Jacob Warren for the TD was a gorgeous ball. Milton doesn't make that play. I will say the procedure penalties are a negative and those seems to stay down with Milton...but that can improve with more practice. I like Hooker for this offense...let's see what Heupel does.

Running Backs...D: I'm not an offensive line expert so I'm not sure who deserves more of the blame for the putrid performance in the non-QB designed run department. But it was brutal. I think Jabari Small has some talent but he doesn't make enough guys miss or have the strength to churn yards forward after contact. I thought he missed a couple cuts to the outside that would have created big plays. Jaylen Wright...he's a freshman but I'm not sure I see SEC talent from him. It's the same thing with him as Small, just not enough yards after contact to turn a one yard run into 3 yards. He missed a couple holes. But he was in a really tough spot playing every snap in the second half. That is not his role. 19 carries for 33 yards between the two is abysmal. It was definitely not all them and we will get to that. But Tiyon Evans is clearly the best back on this team and needs to be the primary back when he gets back.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends...B+: The best group of the day when it comes to positions. I thought this group played really well. That play by Jimmy Calloway was gorgeous (despite the worst angle I have ever seen on a tackle attempt by the Pitt corner) and the balance to tip toe down the sideline was gorgeous. You can see why the staff really likes him. Cedric Tillman is a good football player. A good QB and he'd have two 100 yards games to start the season. Despite that, he still brought effort and made a couple nice blocks on screens to spring guys. All the wide receivers hustle when blocking and that's a good job by Kodi Burns to instill that. Velus Jones had two first downs and nice to see him involved with the offense. Jalin Hyatt's drop was not a good sign and then he got hurt but a quicker read by Milton would have been 6. The TE group was great. Not as efficient blocking but Princeton Fant and Jacob Warren were good. 9 catches for 102 yards and a TD from the TE group is a big win. Warren had two beautiful sell jobs fake QB runs that produced a TD and a 30 yard gain on seam routes. He made a nice adjustment on his TD grab. Fant isn't flashy but he does a nice job running his route and turning upfield. This group is a positive for Tennessee and I wouldn't have said that three weeks ago.

Offensive Line...F: This group is too talented to have such a miserable effort as they did on Saturday. You can tell how badly this group missed Cooper Mays' leadership and talent at Center. Five sacks is inexcusable and they got Milton hurt on a miscommunication. A couple plays Hooker had no chance to make a play because of the instant pressure. I criticized the running back group but Small and Wright are not that terrible where they get 19 carries for 33 yards. That means you are not opening holes for those guys and the OL didn't. Ollie Lane got pushed around and Carvin is much better at guard than center. And the most inexcusable part of this is 7 penalties for 64 yards...including two that were after the play penalties. It absolutely killed Tennessee and the 15 yarder Cade Mays got was atrocious timing. I was really disappointed in this group. They are too talented even with Cooper Mays out.

Defensive Line...C: There were some positives and negatives. I loved the interior push Tennessee got all game. Elijah Simmons is the most improved on the team and a force in the run game. Matthew Butler was solid as well. I was really impressive with the explosion and jumps the interior DL got consistently. I wonder if Pitt had a tell on their run plays or on their snap count for run plays because on re-watch those guys seemed to time everything right in the run game. They also did a great job controlling their gaps and maintaining position for the linebackers/Theo Jackson to clean up. However the lack of pass rush killed Tennessee on Saturday. Now...when I re-watched Kenny Pickett's ability to reset his feet and avoid getting into pressure was impressive to watch. He knew what he was doing and he's good. But there was simply not enough on the edge to make Pickett nervous. Both sacks came on blitzes and Tennessee only got three QB hurries from their defensive line. The only pressure Tennessee got was on blitzes. That cannot happen. I did like Tyler Baron's play in the run game with 2.5 TFL and that deserves to be mentioned. Hopefully Byron Young can ball out and put pressure on QB's...Tennessee needs it.

Linebackers...C+: Juwan Mitchell was much more involved this week and I thought had some nice tackles in space. He did a good job reading the gaps and being aggressive in the box. There were a couple mistakes in the passing defense. He got completely fooled on Lucas Krull's TD on the trick play that Pitt ran and lost coverage on him. He also fell for a couple nice ball fakes by Pickett in the play action game. He needs to make sure to maintain discipline and play his coverages, especially since he is more the coverage LB and Banks is the run stuffer. Speaking of Jeremy Banks...another solid game. He does a great job getting downhill and cleaning up the run game. He's not much in pass coverage and Tennessee relies more on Mitchell and Solon Page to do that...but he does his job very well. He annoys me speaking he is constantly talking and I keep waiting for a 15 yard unsportsman like penalty at any point...but he is balling out this year. I find it interesting defensive wizard Jeremy Pruitt could not unlock his talent but Brian Jean-Mary and Tim Banks could...I hope Banks continues to develop.

Defensive Backs...C-: I wish I had the All-22 film because it would be helpful to see the coverages we were playing with how Pickett was able to dissect our defense. But when your pass rush sending 4 is as poor as Tennessee's was it can be hard to judge the DB's. I like what Alontae Taylor does. It was obvious Pitt didn't want to challenge him too much and he had a couple nice tackles on the edge. I think he only gave up one or two completions and neither were big plays down the field. Warren Burrell had some struggles. He gave up a few completions and was busted for an obvious pass interference and could have been called for two more on replay. He seems to be a solid tackler but Pitt picked on him some. He had a better second half with a couple nice pass deflections but he still needs to improve. It's hard to know what the safeties are doing based on sideline views. Just based on my amateur abilities...it seems our safeties are looking at the QB's eyes too often. Which that is part of their job but I feel like they aren't reading routes enough and not reacting to crossing routes well enough. Both McCollough and Flowers play well in the box but if we are going to run as much Two Man/Cover 2 & 3 as much as we do the safeties have to be more cognizant of those middle of the field routes.

Special Teams...A+: Where can I go ahead and vote Mike Ekeler as the best ST coach at UT in the last 15 years? The coverage units were absolutely fantastic. Paxton Brooks punted the ball for 183 yards and Pitt has 5 return yards...that is 178 yards of field position After a stupid penalty by Darnell Wright, Tennessee had to kick off from the 20...Pitt only got to the 30. And while UT's lack of touchbacks was a concern, it's by design. They want the coverage team to push them back. Pitt finally started to fair catch after realizing the coverage unit was too good. And that blocked punt was all film prep. They found a weakness in Pitt's blocking unit and took advantage with a big play. Chase McGrath hit all his kicks including a big 48 yarder...he's been a nice addition. Great work by Ekeler...give him a raise already.

Coaching: C-...Some people will say too low. Some people will say "F" because of the QB situation and the penalties...I understand that penalties is discipline and people assume that is bad coaching. I personally disagree. The coaching staff isn't telling Cade Mays to shove a guy three seconds after the play. The coaching staff isn't telling Darnell Wright to get an unsportsman like penalty after a TD. The coaching staff isn't telling Warren Burrell to grab jersey even when you aren't exactly beat. Yes the procedural penalties need to be cleaned up and that's part of running an offense this fast. I agree. But the players have to take responsibility too and play smarter. I thought the team came ready to play. The Special Teams units were spectacular. The fake QB design and hit the TE on the seam was gorgeous play calling. The two QB draws for Milton were as beautiful as the Smoky Mountains. I love the play design of this offense. There were negatives. Heupel should have challenged for that spot even with the confusion. The lack of blitzing was peculiar especially with how easy Pickett had it. That fourth down play was a disaster and Pitt knew it was coming. There are things to clean up for sure. It's game 2...this staff is still feeling things out. The big thing going forward is how stubborn will Heupel be about the QB situation. It seems obvious to me Hooker should be the guy. I'm fine with Milton winning the job if he was the best guy in camp. But in five quarters he has shown he cannot make the plays down the field. This offense goes too fast and the team isn't good enough to miss big plays like that. Please Josh watch the film and make the right decision.
I thought Jackson played well enough to grade the DBs a half point higher. He has played better in the first two games tha any QB I have at Tennessee in a number of years. He could be headed for an all SEC & all American season if he keeps his play up.
 
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#6

Backwards K

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#6
A fair assessment but none of this should be a surprise. Many were touting the deficiencies at each of these positions but others kept blindly touting the great talent on hand and how this team should do no worse than 9-3.

The cupboard is bare. The Vols have:

--QB: Three average to mediocre QBs trying to run a new system. 2 of these guys transferred b/c they were not starting at their last school and the other one was 3rd string (at best) on a team with worse QB play than this one. None have proven themselves to be winners......but, it's still early in season

--RB: None of these backs have proven to be a home run threat. Smalls is just like the 2 backs from last year and goes down on first contact. The Freshman is just to small and doesn't hit holes with confidence. Evans has a chance to be a serviceable SEC back but none of the others have shown they can be big producers vs SEC competition. This offense needs a big play back.....not sure there is one on the roster.

--WR/TE: No proven play makers here. The best deep threat has shown a propensity for dropping passes. There is not a serious threat that has to be game planned by opponents in this group........or anywhere else on this offense. Hard to say how much of this is lack of talent or lack of experience. Several showed flashes and this group should get better as the year goes on......provided they find a QB who can get the ball to them.

--OL: Only one guy in this group has ever played with any success in the SEC and he is out of position. No one on this OL but Cade Mays would start anywhere else in the SEC and he wouldn't start at OT

--DL: No proven commodities here. Simmons and Baron would be in the 2 deep at most of the schools in the SEC but there is still no proven speed rusher from the outside in this group and no real play makers. This causes the DC to have to dial up blitzes to get pressure and this leaves big holes in the middle of the field that Pitt took advantage of repeatedly. The coaching staff has this group at max potential but the bar is low there.

--LB: Same with this group. They probably overachieved vs Pitt but still have a lot of deficiencies. No proven play makers or anyone who gets special attention by opponents in their game plan in this group.

--DB: Actually played better as the game progressed. Made some good plays to stop late drives. Overall lack of speed and inability to force turnovers in the passing game will only become more apparent as SEC play begins. Pitt not nearly as fast or athletic on the outside as the Vols will see beginning with UF.

--Special teams: Big bright spot. A kicker who can actually hit a FG from 40+ yds and a punting game that consistently flipped the field with long punts and no returns.

--Coaching Staff: Should be commended for everything they are getting out of this team. The lack of depth wears down the starters but they played hard for the entire 60 minutes. The lack of play makers on offense makes the job more difficult but the Vols scored 34 points against a solid experience team and due to poor execution left another 20+ points on the field. If injuries can be kept at a minimum, this staff will get more out of this team than they should. Not sure where that leaves the Vols but considering the talent level and depth, 6 wins and a bowl invite should be satisfactory to the fanbase.
 

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