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Final Grades: Tennessee vs West Virginia

A bad performance that holds a sliver of hope

NCAA Football: Tennessee at West Virginia
Tim Jordan looked great on Saturday
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Whew, that was rough.

After holding West Virginia to 13 points in the first half, the Vols allowed 27 second-half points en route to a 40-14 blowout. Most believed it would be a rough outing for Tennessee and they were correct.

How did they grade out? Let’s dive into 2018’s first evaluation.


From the very first play, things got off to a bad start for the offense and didn’t get much better as the game went on. They managed just 4.8 yards per play in Charlotte.

That isn’t going to win many games against offenses such as West Virginia - or many games at all.

Six penalties for 48 yards also killed drives that could’ve kept Will Grier and the offense off of the field, which the Vols lost 40-14 in part because of that.

Jarrett Guarantano, Tim Jordan, and Marquez Callaway looked great. Unfortunately for the Vols, that was about it.

It will be interesting to see if the Mountaineers’ defense actually improved that much from last season or if the Vols were really that dysfunctional. The play calling was also very suspect at times, but there will be more on that later.

No turnovers is a plus, but I’d rather score 35 points with a couple of mistakes than 14 with none.

Overall, 14 points isn’t good and won’t win games when the defense plays like it did. At least there is some tape to watch of the two touchdown drives. The Vols looked very good driving down the field and that should be a great building block - but for now, there is a lot of work that remains to be done.

Final Grade: 1.5 (D)


As expected, Tennessee’s young secondary was set on fire to the tune of over 400 hundred yards passing and five touchdowns by Grier. In the Vols’ defense, dude was just placing balls on the money all day long, making life tough for Trevon Flowers and others.

The pass rush was pretty much non-existent outside of a couple of plays and the linebackers - what were thought to be the strength of the defense - did not live up to expectations.

West Virginia’s offense is probably the best in the country and Grier will most likely win the Heisman, but allowing over 500 yards of total offense and nine yards per play is going to get you beat every game. It’s amazing to think that the Vols won lost year against Georgia Tech after giving up over 600 yards of total offense.

The one positive is that outside of the big play to T.J. Simmons, the defense held the Mountaineers to just 13 points in the first half. West Virginia was held to 13 points or less five times in 2017 and they lost all five of those games - so there is something to be said for that.

But it was an absolute slaughter in the second half. It’s reasonable to think that the defense will improve as the year goes on, but right now it’s a major work in progress.

Final Grade: 0.5 (D-)

Special Teams

There’s not much to evaluate here due to the fact that Tennessee didn’t score much and that West Virginia scored a ton, but the unit was effective when called upon.

Chip Omer hit both of his extra points and Joe Doyle averaged 38 yard per punt on six punts. Nigel Warrior led the team with 54 yards on two kickoff returns - good for 27 yards per return.

The defensive side covered punts and kicks well, oftentimes swarming to the ball and cutting off any lanes or angles the returner could use to their advantage.

Hey, you can only grade what you’re given and the Vols’ special teams unit excelled, albeit in limited fashion.

As usual, the special teams grade is the elective of the semester, and is strictly here to boost the GPA.

Final Grade: 4.0 (A)


This one is tricky because the defense seemed to be grounded in their scheme and what they want to do while the offense looked like they are still figuring things out. At the same time, the offense was able to adjust on a few occasions while the defense backtracked.

I did not expect the offense to come out with a quick pass to open the game. That play was blown up immediately as Brandon Kennedy wiped all confidence from the previous statement, allowing Guarantano to get decapitated before the offense even gained a yard.

It was incredibly surprising to see that develop after hearing about the improvement along the position over the summer.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at West Virginia
Jeremy Pruitt knows he has a long way to go
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The positives were in the team’s overall effort during the entire game and there were times were things really began to click on both sides of the ball. The key now is finding a way to put it all together for four quarters.

But play calls such as Tyson Helton’s decision to throw a bubble screen on a 2nd-and-2 after running for an eight yard gain on first down is awful Butch Jones-esque and doesn’t necessarily follow the “SEC way”.

Jeremy Pruitt’s decision to send Alontae Taylor on a corner blitz in what appeared to dime coverage was also a very questionable call and led to David Sills’ second touchdown of the game and is what got the Mountaineers rolling in the second half.

Day one on your new job isn’t always going to go as planned. Just like the team, the staff is going to grow as the season goes on. Despite a bad result, you can see the foundation and what they want to do, but the negatives still show through at the end of the day.

Final Grade: 2.0 (C)

Overall Grade: 2.0 (C)

It was a bad day for Tennessee, but West Virginia is as good as advertised. As long as the Vols learn from their mistakes then everything will go just fine in the Pruitt era. Fortunately, they have two cupcake games to get things figured out before they face off against Florida in Knoxville.


What grade would you give Tennessee?

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