Tennessee Volunteers Preview 2022: Offense
Well that worked. You wanted high-octane fun, lots of passing lots of yards, big plays, and a whole lot of pressure put on defenses? That’s exactly what the Tennessee offense provided in the first year under head coach Josh Heupel.
The Vols were ninth in the nation overall averaging 475 yards per game, averaged 39 points per outing, and they didn’t even have everything in the right place in the first year of the the adjustment.
Granted, there were a whole lot of big numbers put up against a whole lot of mediocre teams – the O failed to get to 30 against Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss, and Florida – but it was 7-1 when it got to 35 points or more, and 0-5 when it didn’t.
This year’s attack should hit 35 on a consistent basis, starting with …
Is Hendon Hooker the most underappreciated quarterback in college football? All the guy does is produce – whether it was at Virginia Tech or last year at Tennessee – and yet he somehow didn’t get the gig to start last season, stepped in for Joe Milton, and threw for close to 3,000 yards with 31 touchdowns and three picks. He’s great, and Milton is a solid No. 2.
Leading receiver Cedric Tillman is back after catching 64 passes for 1,081 yards and 12 scores, Bru McCoy is coming in from USC to be a part of the fun, and tight ends Princeton Fant and Jacob Warren are solid midrange targets. Hooker won’t have any problems spreading the ball around. However …
The offensive line needs to be able to keep Hooker from getting popped. The Vol front five was terrific for the running game, but it allowed a whopping 44 sacks – 3.4 per game; the most in the SEC.
There’s plenty of talent up front with Darnell Wright a pro prospect at right tackle, Cooper Mays a solid center, and with great size at the guard spots. If Jeremiah Crawford can hold his own at left tackle, the line will be solid.
RB Tiyon Evans left for Louisville, but Hooker was the team’s second leading rusher, and junior Jabari Small led the team with 792 yards and nine touchdowns and Jaylen Wright is a good-looking back who ran for 409 yards and four scores.
Tennessee Volunteers Preview 2022: Defense
The offense really, really worked. It was fun, it was exciting, and it put a whole heck of a lot of stress on the defense that had to sit on the field for around 35 minutes a game thanks to the warp speed style of the other side.
There were some rough spots.
To be fair, everyone had to crank up the production to keep up the pace, but Purdue might have just come up with another 37-yard pass play as you’re reading this, and it allowed 500 overall yards or more in five of the last ten games and 396 or more nine times.
There’s plenty of experience and several good parts to get excited about, but the job of the defensive side is to hold on for dear life and let the offense do the work.
It might have been tough at times, but the defense was phenomenal at getting into the backfield. The Vols were seventh in the nation in tackles for loss per game, and the two main men are back with DE Byron Young and LB Jeremy Banks both coming up with 11.5 TFLs.
There’s great size up front with the 320-pound Omari Thomas on the nose and 290-pound LaTrell Bumphus a veteran next to him. It’ll be up to Young and Tyler Baron to be the once to get behind the line.
Banks tied for the team lead with 5.5 sacks and led the way with 128 tackles. Combined with 84-tackle Aaron Beasley in the middle, and the Vols are good in the 4-2-5 alignment – there’s plenty of depth to rotate in.
The secondary has a good hitter in free safety Trevon Flowers, but Theo Jackson will be missed as a broken up pass machine at the Star position.
Strong safety Jaylen McCollough led the team with three picks along with 49 tackles, and the corners should be fine with help coming in from the transfer portal.