Tennessee football report card: Offense grades a level higher than defense

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The only grades that matter come from Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff, and there’s no doubt those men already have spent hours poring over film.

The Vols’ Orange and White game was telling on many fronts, most notably at the line of scrimmage, where an undermanned first-team offensive line spent most of the game owning the more highly touted Tennessee defensive line.

The result was the Orange team beating the White team 34-7, and Pruitt seething after the game about missed tackles and what he saw as a lack of effort from more than one player.

Here’s a look at how the team graded out from the press box view:

Quarterbacks: C-plus

Jarrett Guarantano was the game’s MVP, with a legitimate performance that showed how much he has improved his size, speed and decision-making. Pruitt made it clear the job is still wide open, but no one should take anything away from Guarantano, who was robbed of 2 completions by receivers who didn’t keep their feet in bounds. Will McBride was hampered by the lack of a run game, and he had some nice throws that better receivers would have made plays on. Pruitt said there were open receivers missed by both QBs.

Running backs: B

Tim Jordan and Ty Chandler ran hard, breaking tackles and picking their way through traffic despite playing behind a makeshift offensive line missing two starters. Jordan had 9 carries for 57 yards, including a 29-yard burst and 5-yard TD run. Chandler’s longest run was only 15 yards, and he had 53 yards on 11 carries.

Receivers: C-plus

Tight end Eli Wolf led the team with 5 catches for 63 yards, including a 29-yard TD on the final play of the game. Josh Palmer led the wide receivers with 3 catches for 77 yards, and Marquez Callaway had 3 catches for 30 yards, but each player had a catch nullified because they were unable to keep a foot inbounds. Austin Pope had a strong performance blocking from both the tight end and fullback spots, and had 1 catch for 17 yards.

Offensive line: C

A stepped-up performance came from a group missing several players, which is a credit to offensive line coach Will Friend. Center Ryan Johnson anchored the first-team line and made all the right calls, his only miscue being a snap infraction. Marcus Tatum was rock solid, and Drew Richmond showed improvement from last season. Riley Locklear was strong, and Jerome Carvin and Matthew Butler performed better than expected.

Defensive line: D

Kyle Phillips and Kivon Bennett each had sacks and were bright spots for their respective teams, but it was largely a forgettable and disappointing afternoon for the Tennessee defensive line. Phillips and Bennett had 4 tackles each, leading all the defensive linemen, Phillips was named the defense’s most improved player from spring drills. Jonathan Kongbo and Darrell Taylor had relatively quiet days after much was expected.

Linebackers: D-plus

Quart’e Sapp had a game-high 11 tackles, but his missed tackle at the goal line was an item of contention for Pruitt after the game. Will Ignont had 3 tackles from his middle linebacker position, including a couple of nice open-field stops. Shanon Reid stood out on a couple of plays for the second-team defense, including an interception. Solon Page III had a sack.

Secondary: D

Nigel Warrior was the best player on the field, and 7 of his 8 tackles were solo stops. Sophomore Theo Jackson appears to be a rising star at safety. Marquill Osborne had some nice plays at cornerback, including a pass breakup in the end zone. Shawn Shamburger had some good moments as well, but also a late hit.

Special teams: C

Brent Cimaglia was 2 for 2 on field goals, with makes from 43 yards and 41 yards. Freshman punter Paxton Brooks averaged 39.6 yards per kick but he had a 24-yard punt and that won’t be acceptable. Warrior looked explosive as a kick returner, and he had one runback of 33 yards.

Tennessee football Orange and White game

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