Well, that didn’t exactly go as planned.
Will Grier and West Virginia brought their high-powered offense to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC and rolled over Tennessee 40-14.
Despite the thrashing, there’s plenty to take away from Tennessee’s first game under Jeremy Pruitt and I’ll start with the offense. Led by Jarrett Guarantano at quarterback, the Vols just couldn’t get anything consistently going on the offensive side of the ball.
For a silver lining, sophomore Tim Jordan looked great running for 118 yards on 20 carries, but other than that, the offense needs work all the way around.
The offensive line was gouged often and didn’t help Guarantano much. And Guarantano, while generally poised, just didn’t make many impressive plays. To his credit, he committed no turnovers and had a nice day passing the ball (19/25, 172 yards, 1 TD).
This offensive effort doesn’t bode well at all for the near future considering West Virginia’s defense was much maligned coming into the game. How will this offense look when faced with SEC-level defenders?
As for the defense, the Vols’ defensive backs were outclassed by the combo of Grier and his receivers. Tennessee’s defensive line and linebackers failed to create any significant pass rush. And as a result, WVU did as they pleased through the air.
UT’s rushing defense was okay, holding the Mountaineers to 118 yards on the ground on 27 carries and forcing a fumble. But ultimately, that was fairly inconsequential.
Grier will likely be the best quarterback the Vols face all season but his offensive line will probably be middle of the road when compared to the rest of UT’s opponents. If the likes of Jonathan Kongbo and Darrell Taylor can’t make plays against WVU’s front, I don’t love their chances against somebody like Alabama.
This game was ugly for Tennessee all the way around. But, is it the end of the world and should fans be questioning the hiring of Jeremy Pruitt?
It certainly wasn’t a great first effort by Pruitt and Co. but it’s only game number one. Now we will have to watch how they respond. Do the glaring problems get addressed? What is the demeanor of the team and the staff after taking a crushing loss?
It sucks to say but the best thing that can come from this game is using it as a learning experience. Now, onward and upward to East Tennessee State.
Running backs A-
Wide receivers B-
Offensive line C
Defensive line C
Defensive Backs C-
Special teams B