In case you had any questions, last Friday showed everyone this is not the 2011 Tennessee Volunteers football team. It is easy to say the addition of one player or the subtraction of another is responsible but I think that’s an easy out. Regardless of the reason, it is safe to say this Vols team plays harder, more physical and with more teamwork than last years team. While it is hard to draw sweeping conclusions from one game, let’s hope this trend continues on through the season.
I think far more than anything the difference in this team is leadership. Last year’s team was short in that department. Not that guys like Tauren Poole and Austin Johnson didn’t try but there is only so much you can do. The issues last year were just hard to overcome and spoke to just how young that football team was both in age and maturity. This year’s team looks to be different in that department and it was sorely needed.
I know Tyler Bray has taken a lot of heat for being immature and rightfully so but I saw evidence in this game that he is stepping up to be a leader on offense. That is exactly what you want from your young quarterback and I look for big things from that young man. The talent was always there he just needed to grow into the QB job and he appears to have succeeded. Bray simply stellar and finished the night 27 of 42 for 333 yards, 2 TD’s and no interceptions.
More on the offensive front, our passing game still needs some work but Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Zach Rogers played really well. Hunter is a little rusty but he will knock that off and have a stellar year. The thing I really liked was the effort at blocking but we still need some work there. Some blown assignments but fortunately nothing that we couldn’t overcome for the most part.
Patterson led the pack with with 6 receptions for 93 yards and 1 TD for an average of 15.5 yards per catch. Rogers was next with 87 yards on 2 receptions and 1 TD for an average of 43.5 yards per catch. Hunter had the most looks at 73 yards on 9 receptions and no TD’s for an average of 8.1 yards per catch.
The running game is better but still struggling. Marlin Lane had 9 attempts for 75 yards for an average of 8.3 yards per carry and no touchdowns. Rajon Neal had 22 attempts for 53 yards for a 2.4 yard per carry average and 1 touchdown. Cordarrelle Patterson rushed for 72 yards on 2 attempts in addition to his fantastic performance in the passing game. the spectacular end around resulting in a touchdown leaves him a the top of the stats for for rushing average at 36 yards per attempt. Devrin Young acquitted himself well in the return game with 2 kickoff returns for 45 yards and an average of 22.5 yards per return. He had one punt return for 5 yards.
The offensive line acquitted itself well. Tiny Richardson is going to be a beast on the offensive line and was noticeably excited about the game. Run blocking remains a bit of an issue but overall the line performed quite well. Those guys committed themselves to be a force on the offense and it certainly looks like that is a possibility.
Suffice it to say this Tennessee offense is going to be exciting to watch. These young guns are going to dazzle the nation and put the Tennessee Volunteers back in the mix in the SEC.