The Vols have jumped out to a pleasant 2-0 start. That’s really just wonderful. It’s like a dryer-warmed towel waiting for me after my shower every time I think about it.
Let me play captain obvious for a moment — this start doesn’t happen without the team playing well (or at least decent — whatever). When the team plays well, it means the players play well. And, statistically speaking, the Vols have some guys playing really well.
(This is all relatively speaking, of course, as stats are compiled and ranked against the numbers posted by the other players in the league.)
UT has two players leading the SEC in individual statistical categories: RB Ty Chandler, one part of Tennessee’s two-pronged rushing attack, leads the league in rushing yards with 176 yards on 32 attempts for a healthy 5.5 yards-per-carry average. A happy residual effect — he also leads the SEC in rushing yards per game at 88.
He’s only got one touchdown so far this season, a three-yard, bulldozing effort that capped off a tone-setting opening drive for Tennessee.
Ty Chandler punches it in!!— (@Mr_OSaile) October 3, 2020
TOUCHDOWN TENNESSEE pic.twitter.com/BvN778d69C
A note: sophomore Eric Gray ranks eighth in the SEC in rushing yards with 145. So the Vols have not one but TWO players in the SEC’s top-10 for individual yards on the ground. This is a thing that makes Phil Fulmer smile, and I hope somebody, somewhere, took the entire offensive line out for ice cream.
Another note: Chandler and Gray could likely each have more rushing TDs if not for QB Jarrett Guarantano straight vulture-poaching two scores on goal line sneaks.
INCOMING RANDOM STAT: At one point in time, some years ago, Patriots QB Tom Brady converted 91.3 percent of sneaks on third or fourth downs.
Guarantano converted a sneak on 4th-and-1 at Tennessee’s own 34 yard line (this was a ballsy call from Pruitt and provides some insight into his and the team’s attitude/ approach for this season) on the opening drive, and his sneak-success percentage for this game, 100 percent by my at best tenuous grasp on any sort of math, was higher than Brady’s 2015 campaign. That’s a useless stat with no real comparative value, but I provided it anyway just because, well, I don’t know. It sounded cool to me.
Some ambiguous clarity: I’m not saying Jarrett is better than Tom Brady at QB sneaking, but I’m also not saying that Jarrett isn’t better than Tom Brady at QB sneaking. Related: Guarantano ranks second in the SEC in... you got it — rushing touchdowns with three.
I’ve gotten waaay off track here and meandered my way into a Jarrett Guarantano/ Tom Brady comparison. Someone please come take away my computer and Frisbee-toss it deep into the Tennessee river.
Back on track, for now, the other Vol leading the SEC in an individual statistical category — Tennessee’s breakout and oh-so-freaking bodacious LB Deandre Johnson leads the SEC in sacks with four in the first two games (I’ve seen some references to the number being 3.5 instead of four, but my stance is that when rounding up helps my argument or suits my narrative, I do it. /insert smiley here/
I said mean things about Johnson on Twitter after the first drive of the season, South Carolina’s 11-play, 75-yard militant-like march down the field.
Johnson was basically non existent with the offense running At him all drive— The Nick and Roll (@_NicoSuave_) September 26, 2020
Admittedly, I don’t even really know enough about football to say that kinda thing with any authority. But I do know enough to say that he didn’t set his edge and lost contain at least once on that drive. That’s not some egregious offense; it’s just a thing that happens in football sometimes.
I try to own my remarkably stupid opinions when I have the chance to (that happens A LOT), but I wasn’t really wrong there. He wasn’t good on that drive. But since then he’s been the MVP on a defense with known football deities Henry To’o To’o and Bryce Thompson doing their typical make-amazing-things-look-mundane while defensive backs Kenneth George and Tre Flowers have both been playing well in a mix-and-match, patchwork secondary.
Deandre Johnson picking up right where he left off in Columbia pic.twitter.com/ip35LOvg3I— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) October 3, 2020
(George was wonderful in run support with eight tackles against SC and, to my very untrained eyes, basically shut down his side of the field against Mizzou while Thompson’s snaps were limited by an injury. Flowers led the team with 10 tackles and clearly wanted all the smoke against the You-Ain’t-Never-Shown-Me-Nothing state Tigers.
Johnson was quieter against Missouri with just two tackles, one sack and a single QB hurry. But his game against South Carolina was a masterpiece.
Johnson’s also tied for the SEC lead in forced fumbles, with one, but in baseball the oxymoronic unwritten rule says the tie goes to the runner, and in football the tie goes to the Vol. I’m currently petitioning the NCAA to change that to a written rule. I want it on paper, in black and white.
I don’t know how the rest of the season will unfold; my guess is that it’ll probably be weird. Like South Carolina’s coverage team inexplicably touching a ball at the end of the game and giving Tennessee a chance to recover it, take possession and ice the game, weird. The Cocks out-Vol’d the Vols. #WATTBA
But for now, it’s way cool to see not one, but TWO Vols leading the SEC in their respective individual statistical categories. Ima drink that tea nice and slow. For the record, that tea is unsweetened. You Southerners and your sweet-tea sugar sludge give me Wilford Brimley, DIE-A-BEET-US night terrors. Just like Homer and cobras.
I say all this with your best interest in mind. Sugar is perhaps the most debilitating substance in existence.
Hey and I’m gonna stay true to form and mention something else that doesn’t have anything really to do with the alleged topic of this post: criminally underrated Kivon Bennett was named to Pro Football Focus’s team of the week for his game against the Tigers. It’s nice to see him getting some love — he’s damn good.