VolQuest - The Day After
football Edit

The Day After

Tennessee finished off the regular season with their 7th win in a 45-21 win over Vanderbilt. We review the victory with The Day After.

HOT AND NOT

HOT

Theo Jackson — The senior who said he watches 2-3 hours of tape a day during game week continues to have an incredible senior season. Jackson had a 55 yard pick-6 based off film study. He had a half tackle for loss, a PBU, and 2 quarterback hurries to go with 4 tackles. Jackson is now tied for the team lead in TFL’s. He leads the team in PBU’s and is fourth on the team in tackles. He’s had a tremendous senior season.

Jaylen Wright — The freshman running back who was a non-factor the middle of the season has really found his way running the ball since the second half at Kentucky. Wright had his best night against Vandy rushing for 112 yards an a touchdown on 15 carries. Wright showed more power as he finished more runs falling forward.

Cedric Tillman — What else can be said about the Las Vegas native? He has another 100 yard game and caught a touchdown pass in his sixth straight game. Saturday night he made people miss and didn’t just catch 50-50 balls. With the bowl game, Tillman will be a 1,000 yard receiver and head coach Josh Heupel continues to make is clear that Tillman is just scratching the surface on his potential.

“He has a chance to be an extremely dominant player next year,” Heupel said in a bit of a recruiting pitch. Tillman said a decision from him on the NFL will be made later.

Omari Thomas — Thomas began the year playing a limited amount. He started the final four games of the season and the sophomore’s play has continued to improve. Rodney Garner has been preaching for Thomas to play lower from the get go and Thomas is winning the leverage battle more than he was which has created the increase in production. Over the last four games, Thomas has 9 tackles 2 TFL’s, 2 qb hurries, and 2 PBU’s.

NOT

Fourth down defense — The issue with Tim Banks’ defense the back half of he season has simply been the inability to get off the field and it’s not just third down conversions. It’s fourth down as well. South Alabama was 5 of 7 on fourth down a week ago and Vanderbilt was 5 of 7 Saturday night.

Redzone offense — If there’s been an issue with the offense throughout the season it’s been finishing in the end zone when the offense is in the red zone. Saturday Tennessee was 4 for 6 in the redzone but only 3 touchdowns. For the season, Tennessee has 52 red zone trips, but only have 35 touchdowns out of those 52 trips. An area of growth needed for this offense in 2022 is red zone production.

DEFINING MOMENTS

Theo Jackson to the house— Jackson said WIllie Martinez had gotten on him for not being in position to intercept the ball two plays earlier so with Jackson so the same play developing, he jumped the route, and set sail down the sideline into the endzone for the first points of the game.

Opening possession of the second half— Tennessee had 17 offensive points in the first half, but it wasn’t the typical offensive explosion. Tennessee corrected that to start he second half going 75 yards in 2 plays and :33 seconds. Hooker ran for 29 yards and then hit Tillman on a 46 yard pass for six.

Hail Mary to end half — Tennessee had a chance for a 14 run in the middle eight as the Vols had to settle for a field goal with :42 seconds to go. The Vol defense couldn’t get a stop as they let Vanderbilt throw a 56 yard Hail Mary as the secondary horribly played the ball.

Seniors final run though the T — Enough can’t be said about the seniors on this team and what they have done for this team and this program. Thirty plus players left the program and headed for what they thought to be greener pastures. Those who stayed led and plowed their way to get Tennessee back in the right direction. They deserve a ton of credit and should be celebrated.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

290 — Number of yards by Wright, Small and Hooker. In the Vols 7 wins, they have rushed for 200+ yards 6 times.

94 — Number of TFL’s by the Vol defense this season. The have 4 players with 8 or more TFL’s this season and they have one from all three levels of the defense.

466— Number of points scored this season. That’s the second highest point total in school history. If Tennessee scores more than 7 points in the bowl game they will be the highest scoring team in school history.

0 — Number of points scored by the Vol offense in the first quarter. It’s the first time all season that Tennessee was shut out in the first quarter offensively.

GAMEBALL

I’m giving mine to the senior class. Tennessee’s seniors from the get go bought into Josh Heupel and provided great leadership for this program. Theo Jackson, Matt Butler, and many others have provided this program with a foundation for Josh Heupel to build on moving forward.

BIGGEST CONCERN/QUESTION MOVING FORWARD

Two questions, where are the Vols are going bowling and what's Hendon Hooker and Cedric TIllman's future plans? The Liberty Bowl would dearly love to have the Vols, but they would appear to be on the outside looking in. The Taxslayer Bowl has real interest so does Nashville.

How the bowl scenarios shake out are going to be really interesting? How many get into the New Year’s six.

With 13 SEC teams bowl eligible there’s going to be a lot of heated discussions with bowl officials and the SEC starting after the SEC Championship game.

As for Hooker and Tillman, both were non-committal on Saturday night following the Vols 45-21 win.