It's time for the 3-2-1 report. Three observations, two questions and a prediction as the Vols hit an open date desperate for answers.
Three things we learned in Saturday's loss:
It's the John Kelly show – John Kelly runs hard and is a good player. But when he's shut down, this offense is going no where. Tennessee finished the day with 142 yards of offense on 52 snaps. Kelly had 91 of those yards as he touched the ball 20 of the 52 offensive plays. For the year, Kelly has 48% of the teams total touches (receptions, rushes). He has 723 total years of offense. As a unit, the Vols have 1667 yards of offense this season.
The passing game is awful – The ball was late on Dormady's first interception. The receivers struggled to get open. When they were open the ball was off target. In two SEC games, Dormady has 5 interceptions. Saturday, they had one reception over 10 yards. Jarrett Guarantano in the last two games is 8 of 12 for 13 yards. Five of those 8 receptions have gone for negative yards. Simply put, the passing game looks like a train wreck.
Lack of depth hurting defensive front – Tennessee was good to start the game. In Georgia's first 20 snaps, the Bulldogs had 69 yards. Sixty two were passing yards, and 7 rushing yards. Tennessee had an interception, forced a fumble, two sacks and four total tackles for loss. The problem is that 52 snaps needed 309 yards. In the first 20 snaps, Tennessee played 5 total defensive linemen (3 ends, 2 tackles). When Georgia went up tempo, the Vol defensive front wore down. Brady Hoke's lack of commitment to playing more guys up front from the first game of the season has been puzzling to say the least.
Two questions heading into the bye week:
1 – What direction do they go at quarterback?
When you get routed 41-0, it's not all on the quarterback, but Tennessee's quarterback play isn't good enough. Quinten Dormady has 8 turnovers. He has 6 interceptions and 2 fumbles lost. Jarrett Guarantano has been put in tough situations but hasn't lit it up either. Guarantano has 12 completions in his career. Only 2 of those 12 have gone for more than 10 yards.
Tennessee must improve their play at the quarterback position if they are going to grow offensively. Defenses are defending the screens and the passes in the flat to the running back. Dormady has struggled getting ball down field. The receivers are having a difficult time beating press coverage. They had a couple of chances on Saturday in the first half but the ball was under thrown.
Jones says every position spot on the team is up for grabs and that they have no starters right now. And that starts at the quarterback position. What does Jones do there? It would appear a change is a must, but how Jones manages that position is a question. However, the bigger question is can either quarterback develop.
2 – How does this program respond?
If I'm AD John Currie, I have one question to Butch Jones. The question is what's your plan? How are you going to hold what looks to be a pretty volatile locker room together? How are you goingt to jump start the offensive development of that side of the ball from coaches through players?
Jones said Saturday night that everyone in the program should hurt after the embarrassing loss. But do they hurt? What is the pride level in the program? We won't know the answer to that question for two weeks. There will be talk of good practices, etc. But the truth will show itself in two weeks.
But how this program responds this week from top to bottom is going to dictate a great deal about the rest of this month and the future.
One prediction: It's going to be ugly
We're really crawling out on a limb here aren't we. The excitement level for Butch Jones took a dramatic change last November when he lost to Vanderbilt. That excitement level now has simply turned to anger.
Fans are mad, frustrated, disappointed, pissed whatever adjective you want to use. Those emotions aren't going away and with a week off those emotions are going to be heard more than ever before.
Jones always talks about blocking out the clutter. That seems really impossible to do right now and that clutter likely isn't all from outside noise.
It would seem that Jones is facing his greatest challenge since arriving in Knoxville.