Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
From the neutralization of Mel Kiper Jr.'s top-ranked draft eligible player to the beginning of a potentially exciting career, Saturday's 51-44 loss to Georgia provided some silver linings. They just weren't enough to ease the bitter taste of what might have been.
LOOKED THE PART
JA'WUAN JAMES: Three years ago, Tennessee fans rejoiced when the Vols beat out Alabama and others for the signature of Suwanee, Ga., native James. The 6-foot-6 tackle has started since Day One in Knoxville, but Saturday was by far his best game. He was the best lineman on a unit that paved the way for Tennessee's best rushing day in ages against a quality opponent. Perhaps most importantly, he was a key component in neutralizing UGA OLB Jarvis Jones, who is considered the best defensive player in the conference. James had some help at times, and the Vols were smart enough to go jumbo at tight end and to double-team Jones at times. But James more than held his own. The only question in his game facing James now is will he return to UT for his senior season? An honorable mention here goes to monster junior nose guard Daniel McCullers, who finished with eight tackles and a tackle for loss. PLAY HIM EVERY GAME, DOOLEY!
BLESS HIS HEART
CURT MAGGITT/BRENT BREWER: They're listed for different reasons. First of all, Maggitt is an all-star player who is playing at about 60 percent right now. He is not the same havoc-wreaker and unfortunately probably won't be all season since he's battling turf toe. He was horrible against the Dawgs most of the game, looking slow at times. He also was caught a couple times collapsing inside and leaving big holes for Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley to run through. Maggitt isn't the only Vol who lacks gap-control discipline right now [see the Jacques Smith entry from a couple weeks ago] but his struggles there stood out to me Saturday. As for Brewer, he's the bad combination of slow, not a sure tackler and taking bad angles. He's not an SEC safety, and he probably shouldn't be on the field against elite opponents unless it's at linebacker. There were times against UGA when -- to put it bluntly -- Brewer embarrassed himself.
EARNED A START
LADARRELL MCNEIL: So, who should replace Brewer in the starting lineup? The true freshman from Texas earned playing time with a fast-and-furious performance in relief. After a couple tackles, I looked around asking, "Who is 33?" He doesn't exactly know what he's doing out there all the time, but he is super-talented and is proving why he was a top-10 prospect at his position coming out of high school. "LaDarrell's a good football player, and he's gonna get every opportunity to show he's a good football player," Derek Dooley said after the game. He finished with five tackles, and his career as a Vols starter looks like it may be about to start.