By Jimmy Hyams
Tennessee’s stunning upset loss to Georgia State will not soon be forgotten.
So, even though it’s Thursday, we will remember five things Tennessee did not do well in losing at home as a 26-point favorite.
Offensive Line Rotation
The Vols played nine offensive linemen, treating the opener like an exhibition game. You should have a better idea of who your top five are and play them until you have the game in hand. UT never had the opener in hand.
I also don’t like playing a true freshmen at multiple positions along the offensive line, especially in Game One. Wayna Morris should stay at left tackle until he masters the position. Then, perhaps next year or the year after, you can play him at left guard. He had a big bust at left guard leading to a hit on quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.
Likewise, true freshman Darnell Wright should remain at right tackle until he has a grasp of that spot.
Find your best five O-linemen and stick with them until you HAVE to sub.
Lack of Effort
It’s inexcusable to be a no-show in the season opener.
That’s the fault of the coaches for not having the players ready. But it’s also the fault of the players for not being ready.
You think coaches had to get Al Wilson ready to play? Or Peyton Manning? Or Eric Berry? Or Jauan Jennings?
Jennings was one of the few Vols that looked like he gave a darn about the Georgia State outcome.
I expect a much greater effort by the Vols against BYU. But I’m not sure that will be enough to win.
Guarantano’s Field Vision
Guarantano threw for over 300 yards for the second time in his career, but he didn’t play as well as his numbers suggest. And 69 of those yards came in the last 55 seconds when the game was out of reach.
Guarantano didn’t see open receivers. He threw an end zone interception into coverage at the end of the first half but was bailed out by a pass interference behind the interceptor. He seemed to lock in on one receiver, rather than scan the field. He also held the ball too long in the pocket, leading to sacks or pressures. He also slid too soon on a third-down, falling a yard short of a first down on a drive that could have given UT a 21-7 first-half lead – and could have changed the complexion of the entire game.
And he committed two costly turnovers in the fourth quarter – a fumble and interception.
Guarantano is better than he played Saturday. He’ll have to play much better to give the Vols a chance against BYU.
With 3:11 left in the first half, UT got the ball on its 25, tied at 14-14.
Rather than show a sense of urgency to score, the Vols appeared content to run out the clock, calling four run plays before a 28-yard pass on third-and-8 moved the ball to the GSU 25.
UT had eight snaps after that, but, after a pass interference in the end zone, had to settle for a field goal on second down from the 2 with 2 seconds remaining. Better clock management might have led to a touchdown.
UT coach Jeremy Pruitt said he didn’t want to give the ball back to GSU with time on the clock. You shouldn’t be that fearful of an option team that has limitations in the throw game.
Pruitt said he wanted a simple game plan so his players could play fast.
Instead, the Vols had an inordinate number of busts against GSU’s option. At times, players did not line up properly or rushed onto the field before the snap.
You can blame some of that on youth.
You can blame some of that on not having senior linebacker Daniel Bituli (out with an injury) calling signals and lining up folks.
And you can blame it on coaches for not having players properly prepared.
(Tomorrow, we will take a look at the five things UT did well in the opener and must do to beat BYU.)