At the top of the curve
Quarterbacks. Ainge in Orange looked positively well-oiled rather than rusty after missing two games with a sprained ankle. After the 21 of 26 for 266 yards and two TD outing against the Commodores, Ainge is practically a lock to finish the season as the most accurate passing QB in Tennessee history for any given year. Yes, even more accurate than any of Peyton's single seasons.
Receivers. Meach? Seven receptions for 95 yards and one TD. Swain? Six receptions for 76 yards and one TD. Smith? Two receptions for 29 yards. After getting manhandled by Arkansas' cover corners, this unit put up another strong showing. Meachem needs only 21 yards to break Marcus Nash's single season record for receiving yards. The unit is also doing a good job blocking down field on running plays.
In the middle of the curve
Coaching. Perhaps it was Vandy, but maybe coach Chavis finally got through to his guys on how to contain and thereby stop a mobile QB. Chris Nickson gained only 44 yards on the ground and wasn't any better through the air, going 10 of 23 for 97 yards, one TD, and two interceptions. The offense showed no evidence of rust even though Ainge had missed (essentially) two games. Good game plan, nice calls, nice preparation of the players, including getting their heads right after a disappointing two-game skid.
Running backs. LaMarcus Coker has officially separated himself from the other backs as he's clearly the best ground attack weapon for the Vols. On the day, Coker rushed 10 times for 126 yards and two somersaults into the end zone. Montario Hardesty also ran well, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, which he did nine times.
Secondary. The Jonathan's (Wade and Hefney) each had a long interception return (29 yards for Hefney and 39 for Wade). Vandy receiver Earl Bennett, who's actually very good, had only four catches for 16 yards. Still, Wade's holding penalty negated a third pick and directly led to Vandy's only TD, and Ricardo Kemp dropped yet another certain interception.
Linebackers. Backup 'backer Rico McCoy led all defenders with eight tackles, seven of which were solos and three of which were for lost yardage. He also forced a fumble. Ryan Karl and Marvin Mitchell added five and four tackles respectively, and each had a tackle for a loss. Overall, a good effort for the linebacking corps.
Defensive line. The official stat sheet for the game doesn't show any QB hurries, but I saw plenty of pressure bearing down on Vandy QB Chris Nickson all day. Walter Fisher did have one tackle for a loss, and Robert Ayers did break up one pass. Even though the numbers don't show it, the d-line did what it was supposed to do: contain Chris Nickson and keep Cassen Jackson-Garr from going crazy.
Offensive line. Bleh. Fine, but nothing fancy. Allowed two sacks, but one was probably Ainge's fault for holding onto the ball too long. The other occurred on a trick play during which only those in orange appeared to be fooled. Run blocking much improved.
At the bottom of the curve
Special teams. Hey, bell curves aren't always fair. Somebody has to round out the bottom. There were plenty of positives on special teams this week. Kicker James Wilhoit had a career day, hitting four field goals, and Britton Colquitt punted only twice, but one of them went 57 yards and was muffed at the ten. The muffer eventually regained possession of the ball and was tackled at the eight. Still, because the return game was uneventful, special teams brings up the rear on what was really a solid all-around game by the Volunteers.