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Tennessee Gets Comprehensive, But Not Without Questions

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This was a good win over Utah State, but there's still plenty of room for improvement.

Well done. Now we need to work on your deep ball.
Well done. Now we need to work on your deep ball.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

1. By any metrics, a 38-7 Tennessee win over a Utah State squad tabbed as full of upset potential is a good win. If Tennessee's offensive game plan this year contains run/pass route packages and obvious checks into mismatched screens, I'm not nearly as concerned about Justin Worley. Most of what Worley was asked to do yesterday was hit open guys in the short-to-midrange game, and he did that. 27-of-38 overall isn't that helpful without context, but I think he was 0-for-5 or 0-for-6 on deep balls with at least one midrange drop, so ....27-31 is pretty good, isn't it? If this is what Worley's asked to do all season, he'll be fine. In total, 7.2 YPA is okay--literally, it's the NCAA average, or it was in prior years--and that will get helped some as WR blocking improves.

2. Worley's threaded pass to Brandon Downs to go up 14-0 was the kind of pass I never expected him to complete. I don't think Josh Dobbs hits that pass, nor Nathan Peterman. Credit the playcalling, again. Related: I don't know whether Worley or the bench optioned into the Jalen Hurd 1st down run on 3rd and 5 when Utah State was clearly shading the boundary side, but well done, whoever did that. Worley keeping on a zone read still looks like a drunken zebra wandering the French Quarter, though. Can we get more keepers? Please?

3. Seriously, Mike Bajakian was fantastic this game. Built-in run/pass options (yes, I'm going to keep bringing this up because this is a fantastic idea we need more of), occasional rollouts, quicker releases designed to help the offensive line in case they got swamped, with just enough interior runs to keep the linebackers from shading out.

4. Eleven different guys caught passes, which is a function of impressive WR depth and a still-unfinished depth chart. Pig Howard and Marquez North still led the team in number of receptions, but Josh Smith had that great 38-yard catch-and-run (great seal block by Pig on this), Jason Croom looked strong, and Von Pearson looked like he belonged. Also, how about Ethan Wolf-backup long-snapper Ethan Wolf, because that will amuse me the entire year-getting on the board with three catches? This many receiving options is great news, the kind of news that won't really go away as the games get harder.

5. We knew Utah State was going to be limited beyond Chuckie Keeton; I don't think we guessed there was nothing beyond him. Everyone on the Utah State offense was shut down save one JoJo Natson run in garbage time, and the Utah State defense was largely victimized save inside the tackles. There isn't much more to mention here, which is a credit to Tennessee and a good sign going forward against dual-threat QBs.

6. Never graduate, Cam Sutton. Never, ever graduate. Also, never throw even kind of near Cam, opponents. Actually, you know what? Just throw at him all the time. Keep doing it until you've learned your lesson, because the one weakness he had last year-screen pass isolations-seems to have been addressed. Plus, you know, he picked off the only time I can remember Keeton throwing at him. So yeah, just throw at him 5-10 times a game. We could use the extra possessions.

7. Will covered it already, but A.J. Johnson had a fantastic game. I love the idea behind the kickoff coverage unit composition, and as long as kicks keep on landing within 3 yards of the goal line, this unit will be good. (Kick and punt returns? Reply hazy, check back later.) I'm still waiting on coaches to recognize that unless you have an elite kick return man, kneel any time it's in the end zone, but until then, kicks right in that "I can run this out!" range are hot field position death, so keep doing that.

8. Revisiting my post from last Wednesday: Tennessee's defense absolutely succeeded (way better than I thought; Keeton just doesn't throw two picks), their run game barely didn't fail, and the pass game succeeded. Sounds about right.

9. Now, we need to pick some holes. Worley's deep ball accuracy was ....lacking. Those balls still have to be thrown-and I like going to the deep-ball/trick play bucket right after a turnover (Pig, GET THE BALL UP! That reverse pass should've been an easy TD)-but most of them weren't within four yards of their target. Just rough all around, and at this point we've seen that for most of his college career. I don't know how likely it is that we'll see deep completions this year, but hopefully this was just opening-week jitters and not the continuation of a trend.

10. Passing down on offense for Tennessee ...okay, although not as bad as I thought at first glance. In total-unofficially, since I just parsed ESPN's play-by-play and, well, y'all can figure out why this got confusing-Tennessee went 7-for-15 in passing down success rates. Of note: they did better in second down passing situations (i.e., 2nd and 9 or worse) than third down passing situations, but success on 2nd down passing situations means manageable third downs, so don't ignore it entirely. Its more noteworthy that of 79 plays, only 15 were passing downs, and the offensive line managed to false-start their way into a couple of unsalvageable situations.

11. So you know how we were all worried about the offensive line going into the season? ....yeah. We were right! Congratulations, everybody! Of course, we don't really have much to lean on here other than "hope experience gets these guys better" and "hope we can show tapes of the problems we had getting pushes on interior run plays to five-star OL recruits and tell them "you can play from day one' ", but that's how it'll go. It obviously didn't matter yesterday, but it'll matter later. (Maybe not so much on Saturday, though; Arkansas State has a bunch of new linemen. In two weeks, though? Pray for Mojo.)

12. I don't know what to make of Pig, to be honest. My main concerns with Pig going into the season were that he simply hasn't been efficient enough to get the touches he's been getting, and the returns from yesterday-2 runs for 9 yards, 6 catches for 37 yards, one horribly under-thrown trick play, and at least one drop I can remember, possibly two-weren't great. His blocking seemed fine, though, and obviously there's a level of trust the staff has in him, but is he basically an extended-handoffs guy? If he is, shouldn't he be in the backfield more? Can someone else play his role with more success? Help me out here.

13. This was a good game. Tennessee turned what everyone expected to be a close game or an upset into a beatdown. This was as comprehensive a victory against an opponent of this caliber since the Cincinnati game, and that shouldn't be ignored even with these questions. The foundation now is far better than the foundation from 2011. More performances like that will only help the foundation going forward, and yesterday was better than I had dared hope.