Same song, second verse: Week 1 on Rocky Top

CHARLOTTE, NC - 2018.09.01 - Tennessee vs. West Virginia

I never thought I could hate John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. Then Saturday happened. The only cover worse than the drunken Mountaineer fans’ renditions of Denver’s hit, was the 2018 Vols impersonation of the 2017 Vols. Expectations soared, local shock jocks tweeted, and one foolish soul made a costly Venmo bet. It was all in vain. Pruitt’s Vols were nearly identical to Jones’ Vols.

Raise

  1. Quarterback play – There was very little for Vol fans to be positive about from Saturday’s performance. One silver lining was the much improved play of quarterback Jarret Guarantano. He was by no means an all-star, but compared to his play last season it was night and day. He didn’t make any big mistakes, and delivered timely, accurate passes with some serious pop.
  2. Tim Jordan – No one saw this one coming. Tim Jordan will probably not enter another game in his Vol career as the backup halfback. If he were a step or two faster, he could be a serious NFL prospect. He ran with John Kelly esque anger and Adrian Peterson esque moves. He could prove a pleasant surprise this season.

Fold

  1. The entire defense – Tennessee’s defense was outright atrocious on Saturday. Plenty of players had standout games, but not in a positive sense. A very green secondary was exposed by veteran Will Grier time and time again. A touted and experienced front seven had little to no impact on the game. It gave up huge run plays on third and long multiple times, and was unable to consistently apply pressure to Will Grier. This was a nightmarish combination.
  2. Local media – College football has changed dramatically over the past 6 years, as has sports media. Media members used to having nearly unlimited access, now have to supply year round coverage with little to no access to practice. Simply put, the guys on sports radio don’t know much more about what happened in fall camp than you do. They make inferences and observations based entirely on second hand information from the UT P.R. department. To expect that UT’s vaunted 5-star recruits entering their third and fourth years are FINALLY going to live up to the hype, because of a few veiled remarks from Pruitt, is setting yourself up for disappointment.

Hold

  1. The offensive line – At the outset of Saturday’s matchup, it appeared that Tennessee’s o-line had miraculously taken a step backwards in the offseason. However, as the game wore on, the group appeared to begin to gel. Pruitt offered some explanation for this post-game. He said that three of the five starters have had little over a month to prepare, due to transfer, injury, etc. It’s too early to pass judgement on Tennessee’s big 5, but here’s to hoping they figure it out before the Florida game.

The Bottom Line

Tennessee got blown out of the water by a team that is both its superior, and a terrible matchup for it. If these two teams met ten times, West Virginia would win eight or nine of the contests. Tennessee is a bad football team that was thoroughly outclassed. Throw in three freshman defensive backs facing a Heisman candidate quarterback and a veteran receiving core, and well… you watched the game. If Pruitt can pull this team together and win six or seven games, it will be commendable.

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