Sorry for the lack of a Vollhalla podcast folks. Mike and I will be back next week. This week wanted to fill the void with our Johnny’s Major Keys to the week. We’re going back and forth style on this one.
- (CHASE) Fans, chill out on the early call to replace JG.
This first one is one for Vols fans, or the category of viewers who seem to only watch the game just to complain about said Vols. We all know the types…
I get it, JG’s inconsistencies sometimes make you want to pull your hair out. But it’s way too early to pull him. Mainly because it’s the guys 7th win in a row.
Yes, Jarrett missed Keyton about 3 or 4 times throughout Saturday night. Yet did a great job of finding Palmer, Johnson and Jones. Due to practice restrictions and this being Keyton’s first year as a WR 2 or 3, there are going to be timing miscues and some missed throws early on in the year to guys who Jarrett hasn’t used as much in the past. This group will get better. The passing game definitely has upside and there were flashes of that Saturday, and hopefully improve and get some confidence against Missouri.
Lastly, as a subplot to this point, the backups. Maurer and Shrout are similar, but different, in the fact that fans see both as having potentially high ceilings. Mainly the reason fans view them as better, is simply, they aren’t Jarret Guarantano.. Both may have been given this unproven higher ceiling, but both definitely have a lower floor. Maurer struggles with consistency. As much as Maurer and keep a drive going, he can kill a drive just as fast. Shrout has a monster arm, but has no idea where it is going sometimes. He seems to have moved into the 2nd slot on the depth chart from talks of him finding a better touch and getting better in the offense.
As for Harrison Bailey, he’s exactly where he should be this season. As Trey Wallace explained on the podcast last week, Bailey is playing on the scout team. The reason that is a good thing, he’s getting reps against the first team defense every day. He’s not ready to take control this year. And why play him this year to take physical and mental hits. Its SEC only play, and he’s not had a ton of practice time due to COVID. Don’t rush Bailey. Yes, he’s the future, but not the near future.
1. (MIKE) IT’S TIME: for the offensive line to live up to their billing and dominate.
If Tennessee can dominate Missouri’s defensive front seven, then the Vols can dictate the speed of play and tire a team that doesn’t have a lot of depth.
With the addition of Cade Mays, we have one of the most talented Offensive Lines in the country. Cade played at three or four different positions along the offensive line for the Dawgs and his versatility will help ensure that we get the five best guys on the field. The coaches will try to find me the right mix on the Offensive Line to make sure that we are closer to 100% for next week’s game between the hedges. Tennessee has talent and depth on the OL. While most assume it will be Morris, Smith, Kennedy, Mays, and Wright from left to right. Guys like Carvin, Spraggins, Jahmir Johnson, and Calbert would factor into other starting lineups in the SEC. With the limited practice and reps this offseason, this game has to serve as on the job training of sorts for the unit as a whole. Tennessee has the pieces in this game to impose their will upon the other team, particularly in this position group matchup. Fans should expect to see a dominant performance from the Orange & White with the offensive line dictating the pace and terms of play
2. (CHASE) Get away from the 50/50 split of run and pass.
Last Saturday against South Carolina, Tennessee had 32 passes and 33 rushes. That can’t happen if this Vols team wants to be at its best.
This Tennessee offensive line is now getting Cade Mays back into the rotation. With that edition it is a top 10 to 15 O-line in the nation, if not better. Behind that offensive line are 2 very good college running backs in Gray and Chandler. Chandler has averaged 5 yards a carry throughout his 4 year career at UT, and has never had this much top to bottom talent to run behind. I think everyone who is a regular viewer of the Tennessee Volunteers, knows Eric Gray is going to be fantastic college running back. Gray also averaged 5 yards a carry in his freshman year and already looked really good with the ball last Saturday.
Leaning heavy on the run will open up big action plays to showcase the speed of the Vols’ wide receivers. Establishing the run early Saturday is a must, and then continue to keep pounding the rock.
2. (MIKE) Protect the ball
I’d go with a more conservative philosophy against the Tigers, not showing your hand too much. Let JG game manager (I.e. steer clear of swing passes.) Establish the run and utilize play action. Play to his strengths and we should leave Neyland with a W. Fans have dogged JG for overthrowing the ball too often against South Carolina. That’s fair, but Coach Pruitt was encouraged in some ways by the performance citing that Guarantano made the best decision more than ninety-five percent of the time.
Keep it simple for him in the offense and in doing so, make it harder for Missouri to win the turnover battle. From a talent standpoint on paper, this Missouri team is outmatched. Last years result would say something similar as JG had a career day. That being said, lose the turnover battle and this game that should go comfortably Tennessee’s way could get interesting quickly. The common theme in Tennessee’s slow start last season was losing the turnover battle. Each game the Vols lost was a game in which they turned the ball over more than the other team. Pruitt will hope his team can continue to protect the ball as they did in week 1.
3. (CHASE) Get the secondary figured out and Force turnovers
Jaylen McCollough will be back at safety this week, so Bryce Thompson can move back to the top corner. Also, getting Warren Burrell back adds depth to the secondary. After last week, you could see that extra rotation and everyone in their natural spots, was sorely missed.
As dominant as the Tennessee front seven was last week, the additions in the secondary should give a green light on being aggressive and attack Shawn Robinson to force turnovers. And with Darel Middleton coming back also, the defensive line will also be adding depth.
3. (MIKE) JG must build on his Week 1 performance.
Despite the improvement in decision making, Guarantano missed badly on several throws. Some of that could be chalked up to a lack of rhythm with his receivers. Whether it’s timing or the target breaking off a route too soon, these elements of the offense tend to improve over time.
Perhaps not just a key to the game but rather a key to the season will be for Guarantano to continue to progress. Many are convinced that he is who he is and that may be so. However he is breaking in a few new receivers and that could lead to better performances ahead. At the end of the day, this teams ceiling is whatever the ceiling is of our quarterback. Many of the pieces are there and fans should feel optimistic about the direction of the program but there are still clouds in the sky regarding what fans can expect from the Vol’s signal caller.
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