LOOKED THE PART
DERRICK BRODUS/RAJION NEAL: I tried -- and failed -- to pick just one of these guys. On one hand, you've got the guy who at least for one week solved our ridiculously embarrassing kicking failures with a big game, going 4-for-4 in field goals and 5-for-5 in extra points to be named one of the week's three Lou Groza Star of the Week honorees. Exactly zero Tennessee fans would have told you last week that we'd have a kicker even in the conversation for that this year. Then you have Neal who had a consistently strong game, rushing for a career-high 151 yards on 22 carries and rebounding to have the best game of his collegiate career after an early fumble. Though the Vols still don't have a strong short-yardage back, Neal has put together two nice games in a row.
BLESS HIS HEART
JACQUES SMITH: You can really substitute any of our pass rushers here -- Curt Maggitt, Willie Bohannon, Darrington Sentimore. Smith is just the poster boy of this major failure in my mind because he has every shred of potential in the world and he consistently fails to get to the quarterback. Tennessee generated no pass rush again, and Smith's "honor" with this award is a representation of those struggles. I'm open to suggestions for the Bless His Heart, but Smith had one tackle and Maggitt had one tackle. That's two of UT's most important defensive players who basically had no role in this game. Derek Dooley said this and I'll leave it at that: "I think we have a lot of improving to do. Probably not as bad as what the statistics might show from a sack standpoint, but we certainly have a lot of work to do. Nobody has really stood up and said I'm a dominant pass rusher in this league, not on our team. Most of these teams have a guy who can really get back there and effect the quarterback. I was pretty clear that nobody has proven that they could do it, so hopefully in time they will get better and better."
EARNED A START
ALTON "PIG" HOWARD: Unfortunately, the Vols didn't get to play nearly as many guys as they'd liked to against Akron -- just look at the statistics and see how many non-starters stand out to you -- but Howard showed some nice things. The talented, highly anticipated freshman from Orlando had three touches for just 21 yards, but it's a play that wasn't made that separated him. He was running wide-open down the sideline for what could have/should have been a long touchdown on a second-half completion by Tyler Bray to Cordarrelle Patterson. He's going to help a lot soon. Brendan Downs also had a 6-yard touchdown reception in his first game this season.